Millions of bargain-hungry shoppers are set to scour shops for deals on Thanksgiving as an increasing number of stores across the country throw open their doors a day early.
Some of the nation’s largest chains, including Toys R Us and Target, have nudged their opening times into Thursday in a bid to make more money than ever over the Black Friday weekend.
“Retailers are now commercializing Thanksgiving, giving the opportunity to the consumer who doesn’t want to watch 12 hours of football,” said Marshal Cohen from consumer research firm NPD Group.
“It’s no longer Christmas creep, it’s the Christmas crush. This is about beating the competition.”
Across the US, a staggering 17% of consumers – or 41 million people – are expected to shop on Thanksgiving, according to a consumer holiday tracking survey by The International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs.
And for retailers, it makes sense. Last year, stores which extended their hours saw sales soar by up to 22% over the weekend, while those retailers that did not lost up to 8%.
The National Retail Federation predicts 147 million Americans will shop over Thanksgiving weekend, and that there will be an increase of holiday sales of 4.1% on last year.
Already queues are snaking outside large stores. Tents began gathering outside Best Buy stores on Tuesday as bargain hunters hoped to get their hands on gadgets when doors open on Friday.
Stores are enticing shoppers with discounts including $7 board games at Target, $19 sweaters at Gap and $299 Toshiba 50-inch LEDs at Sears – down from $849.
Aware that many customers plan to shop online, Target and Best Buy are also matching prices offered by online competitors such as Amazon.com, Bloomberg reported.
And in some stores, there will be kiosks and mobile checkouts to integrate online and in-store shopping, while Apple customers can simply scan their products and pay remotely.
Millions of bargain-hungry shoppers are set to scour shops for deals on Thanksgiving as an increasing number of stores across the country throw open their doors a day early
Independent stores and entire malls nationwide are also opening early. In South Florida, for example, Dolphin Mall in Sweetwater and Sawgrass Mills in Sunrise each open at 9 p.m. on Thursday for 24 hours.
With stores opening earlier, the retail industry has crossed the Black Friday barrier and it might creep further forward still, Kimberly Taylor, an associate professor from Florida International University, told the Miami Herald.
“It is becoming almost a whole season,” she said.
“Where is it going to end? Will it take away the whole Black Friday if it is the whole week or the whole season?”
There will also be early sales online as discounts are offered ahead of the internet’s equivalent of Black Friday – Cyber Monday.
The deals are expected to boost sales made on Thanksgiving last year, when online spending rose 18% to $479 million. On Black Friday, sales soared 26% to $816 million.
But not all employees are happy about the changes, with some workers signing petitions at change.org demanding stores including Target and Walmart stay closed on Thursday.
One petition started by a Target employee, Casey St Clair, was entitled “Target: Take the High Road and Save Thanksgiving” and had gathered almost 400,000 supporters.
But in response, Target told the Orange County Register that other workers were happy to have the overtime hours.
“When we made the decision to open our doors at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, the first thing we did was reach out to all of our store leaders and ask them to have discussions with their team members and seek volunteers wanting to work,” Tina Schiel, executive vice president of stores for Target, said.
“We had so many team members who wanted to work on Thursday that hundreds of our stores are now keeping lists of volunteers who want to work if shifts open up.”
Cyber Monday is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. In 2012, it falls on November 26.
Cyber Monday was christened by Shop.org in 2005, because it’s known for online shopping sales. It follows the bricks-and-mortar shopping done on Black Friday, the first shopping day after Thanksgiving. Each year, new records are set as more and more people enjoy the convenience of shopping online.
In 2012, online holiday sales are expected to grow 12%, to $96 billion. That’s because 51.8% of people will take advantage of web-based sales, up from the 46.7% in 2011. On average, each person will do more than a third (38.8%) of their shopping online.
In 2011, Cyber Monday sales were $1.2 billion, up a whopping 22% over Cyber Monday 2010. On average, nearly 11% of shoppers used their mobile devices to visit retailers’ web sites. What were the most popular devices? The iPhone and iPad, followed by the Android.
Nearly 130 million Americans said they would shop on Cyber Monday – a third more than last year. More than half said they’d shop from work – naturally, during lunch hour or right after work.
The holiday shopping season is important for the economy because 19% of retail sales occur between Black Friday and Christmas. For some retailers, such as jewelers, it can be nearly 40% of their annual revenue.
Retailers Planned Bigger Sales
Thanks to the growing success of Cyber Monday, nearly 70% of online retailers expected their sales to increase at least 15% in 2011. This was even more optimistic than last year, when only two-thirds thought their sales would rise, and in 2009, when less than half thought so.
As a result, this year just about 90% of retailers offered great online sales. Nearly all offered free shipping, which was a large reason for the success of the record-setting 2010 Cyber Monday. This success spurred more than half of retailers to increase their “free shipping” budget, while one-third of retailers offered free shipping even earlier than they did last year. These retailers are smart, because 36% of shoppers surveyed said they’d increase their online shopping only if shipping were free.
Nearly half of the retailers offered coupons or a percent off deals (45.0%), while more than one-third had limited-time-only promotions. Fewer (15%) promoted a free gift-with-purchase.
Online retailers lured shoppers to Cyber Monday by promoting their sales even earlier than last year. More than half started their promotions by Halloween. These retailers are smart, since Halloween 2011 was the most successful spooky holiday yet. Nearly 40% waited a few weeks, starting their Cyber Monday promotions in mid-November. Just over half started promoting on Thanksgiving Day itself, while nearly all (92.2%) offered sales sometime over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Cyber Monday 2012
Why Holiday Shoppers Are Switching to Cyber Monday
Cyber Monday shoppers are very clear about why they like the day. More than 40% of time-strapped shoppers said the 24-hour convenience is their highest priority. Almost as many listed their desire to avoid the crowds on Black Friday as their primary reason for shopping online. Nearly a third of online shoppers said they like the ability to easily compare prices. A few online shoppers said they would buy less, thanks to expensive shipping charges, not being able to see or handle their purchase ahead of time, and having to wait for it to be shipped.
Shoppers are using social media more than ever. Nearly one third said they would go to a company’s Facebook page to get additional information about Cyber Monday sales. Twice as many would look at customer reviews on the company’s website before buying any products or services.
Growing Importance of Mobile Technology and Social Media
Online retailers are responding to shoppers’ use of mobile technology and social media by promoting there. More than half of retailers made sure their website sales were optimized for mobile devices. Another 20% were even optimizing for tablet device apps. More than a third used QR codes in magazine and billboard ads.
Online retailers also maximized their use of social media. Nearly three-quarters said they would promote sales on their Facebook pages, while more than 40% promoted on Twitter.
More than half (52.9%) of those who own smartphones, and even more (64.1%) of tablet-users will use them to do their holiday shopping. Nearly a third of smartphone users will research prices, while a fourth will find out store locations and sales. Only 15% will actually buy products with their phone.
With tablet users, on the other hand, the percentages go up,. More than 40% will compare prices, while 20% will redeem coupons. Most important, nearly a third will go ahead and buy online. (Source: National Retail Federation Annual 2012 Survey)
How to Get the Best Cyber Monday Deals
Retail sales can be found on CyberMonday.com, which features a schedule of what retailers offer deals at what times in a “Deal of the Hour” promotion. You can find sales from more than 800 online retailers.
Best Buy, the largest U.S. specialty electronics retailer, has alerted some customers that it will not be able to fill their online orders, just days before Christmas.
Best Buy said late Wednesday that “overwhelming demand for some products from Bestbuy.com has led to a problem redeeming online orders made in November and December”.
Meanwhile, the iconic upscale New York department store Barneys said a number of its online orders were canceled because of technical glitch.
Neither Best Buy nor Barneys are saying exactly how many customers were affected.
The shortages are a black eye for Best Buy, which has beefed up its online campaign to fight off intense competition from online retailers and discount stores. And the holiday season is crucial for retailers like Best Buy because it can make up to 40% of annual sales.
Some glitches should not be a surprise with such a massive surge in online shopping this year, analysts said, but there is a risk of a backlash.
“It is a hiccup for the company,” said Morningstar analyst R.J. Hottovy.
“They were kind of behind the curve building out their online channel. They’ve done a good job investing in it, but if you make a lot of rapid changes, inevitably there are going to be growing pains.”
“The canceled orders probably won’t make a big difference for Best Buy’s holiday sales this year, but it may lead to more customers looking elsewhere in the future,” he said.
“The risk is any consumers affected by canceled orders will be willing to explore other alternatives for online shopping in years to come,” R.J. Hottovy said.
Online sales are up 15% to $32 billion so far this holiday season, while total sales are up just 2.5%.
Even though online sales are a huge boon for retailer, the shift has already created some problems.
Discount retailer Target Corp’s site crashed in September because of overwhelming demand for Missoni for Target, a limited designer line of clothing, home goods and accessories.
Best Buy benefitted when its now-defunct rival Circuit City went out of business more than a year ago, but its suffering as Americans hold off on big ticket items and search for deals online and at discounters.
In order to compete, Best Buy has expanded its online offerings, cut back on square footage in the U.S. by closing stores and sought to expand internationally. In its most recent third quarter ending November 26, Best Buy said its net income fell 29% as it cut prices in popular categories such as tablets and TVs to drive sales and traffic during the holiday season.
Best Buy shares rose 8 cents to $22.96 in midday trading.
Barneys sent out e-mails to some customers with the following message:
“This technical issue posed a significant challenge for our IT department and in turn caused some lengthy delays in responding to both order requests and emails and so I apologize as well for the lateness of this reply… but nonetheless your order was canceled as we no longer have the inventory to fulfill it.”