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Black Friday Comes Early

"The floodgates have opened, People will turn Thanksgiving Day shopping into a tradition as they historically have on the day after Thanksgiving ... And stores don't want to be left behind."

--Roger Beahm, professor of marketing at the Wake Forest University School of Business in Winston-Salem, N.C.

HEAR   Black Friday Tips from ConsumerWorld.org's Edgar Dworski
Also On The WBEN Liveline:
Retail Analyst Burt Flickinger, Strategic Resources Group 
CBS's Jill Schlesinger


Thanksgiving is slowly becoming just another shopping day.

Over the past few years, major retailers, including Target and Toys R Us, slowly have pushed opening times into Thanksgiving night to one-up each other and compete for holiday dollars.


This year Macy's Inc., J.C. Penney Co., Staples and Kohl's Corp. are opening for the first time on Thanksgiving evening. And other stores, including Best Buy Co., announced earlier on Thanksgiving.

 Black Friday, which typically is the year's biggest shopping day, for a decade has been considered the official start to the busy holiday buying season. Stores open in the wee hours of the morning with special deals called doorbusters and stay open late into the evening. Meanwhile, Thanksgiving and Christmas remained the only two days a year that stores were closed.

This year, more than a dozen major retailers are opening on Thanksgiving, including a handful like Macy's, J.C. Penney and Staples that are doing it for the first time. The Gap, which operates its Old Navy, Gap and Banana Republic, is opening half of its stores on Thanksgiving morning. In Western New York, for the first time West Herr Auto Group and other car dealerships are even invoking "Black Friday" in their pre-Thanksgiving advertising.

Some initially resisted, saying that they wanted their employees to be able to spend time with their families. Others embraced the concept, citing demand.

   Looking to find new and exciting Black Friday deals in stores this year? Don't hold your breath.

 "When it comes to the products, you're seeing the same kind of things in technology at least. There's always the TV sale, there's the laptop sale, and people will go in line and they will hunt for that because they're worried there's going to be low amounts available, and that's true" says Bridget Carey, Senior Editor at CNet.

Instead, much of the Black Friday craze is moving online, where retailers like Amazon and Wal-Mart will be starting the sales early Thanksgiving morning. "Amazon has a new deal every 10 minutes during Black Friday, so if you'd rather digest your turkey and chill out with your tablet in front of you, you can still go shopping that way and you're not going to miss out because the deals are pretty similar to what you're going to find in stores."

And if you think Black Friday is just one day, you may be missing out on some deals. Stores are opening earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, and online deals will last all week. All this without mentioning "Cyber Monday" sales, which on many sites will begin over the weekend and extend for "Cyber Week."

With all of the movement from the store to the Internet, Carey has some advice for Black Friday shoppers. "Avoid it. You don't need to go through the mania of going through the stores so early. Enjoy time with your family because there are so many deals online. You can go on your tablet, while someone's watching football you can be on your laptop and shopping. It's fun to run around the store but you don't have to go so early anymore."


Retailers say they're just doing what shoppers want. And they know that opening earlier gives them a chance to be the first to grab shoppers' dollars. That's an important opportunity for chains, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the last two months of the year.

But so far, it's unclear whether opening on Thanksgiving boosts retailers' top line or simply pushes forward sales from Friday. Last year, it was the latter: Sales on Thanksgiving were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday, according to Chicago research firm ShopperTrak.

But business dropped 1.8 percent to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year. That day accounted for about 4.3 percent of holiday sales last year.

"Customers clearly showed that they wanted to be out shopping much earlier on Thanksgiving," Amy von Walter, a spokeswoman for Best Buy, which moved up its opening this year to 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving from midnight on Black Friday in 2012. "Our plan this holiday is a direct result of that feedback."

Given the controversy, opening on Thanksgiving can be a difficult decision for retailers to make.

For instance, last year, Macy's and J.C. Penney didn't open on Thanksgiving evening as competitors did. Both chains say they wanted to honor their workers' time with their families. But this year, they changed their tune.

Tony Bartlett, executive vice president of Penney's stores, says the company decided to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving this year because of customer feedback. He also says Penney store employees wanted to open on Thanksgiving so they could get the chance to better compete with rivals.

"Obviously, we were one of the last to open," last year, says Bartlett, referring to the chain's 6 a.m. opening in 2012. But he says this year, "We're all in."

Not every store is opening on turkey day, though. A couple of retailers even put out statements specifically noting that they won't be opening on Thanksgiving so that their employees won't have to work.

"We believe it is important for our team members to be able to spend this time with their loved ones," Travis Smith, CEO and president of Jo Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, says in a statement. The retailer plans to open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

B.J.'s Wholesale Club also says it will not open on Thanksgiving. "Once again, BJ's is bucking the trend of putting sales on Thanksgiving above family time," BJ's says in a statement in which it announced that it would open stores at 7 a.m. on Black Friday.

Locally, Vidler's 5 and Dime in East Aurora went out of their way to draw attention to the difference between retail big box stores open on Thanksgiving and the smaller stores that don't even offer any special Black Friday events.

"Black Friday to us means when it's pitch black Friday morning at 3 am, I'll still be asleep.  We are not going to get up early, we have our normal hours Friday," says co- owner Don Vidler, adding that in past years he'd see a late morning spike of Black Friday big box shoppers, who wake at dawn, and then return to his store after the early early morning rush elsewhere.

As for opening on Thanksgiving?   "It's important for people to be with their families," he says.

Canadian Shoppers Still Boost Buffalo

Buffalo, NY (WBEN) With the holiday season just about here, Erie County Comptroller Stefan Mychajliw is nervous over sales tax revenue, in particular, how much revenue from those crossing the border from Canada, like the Peace Bridge.

"We live and die by the number of Canadian shoppers who come to Erie County and spend their money," says Mychajliw. "Sales tax is our largest source of revenue so rely on our Canadian friends to shop." Mychajliw says the state does not give a specific breakout on Canadian shoppers crossing the border, but he admits the county relies on sales tax revenue generated by our friends from the north. "A very unofficial count of Canadian license plates at malls are what we do, and we hope for a lot."

Mychajliw says it's "incredibly risky" to rely on sales tax revenue as the top revenue for the county. "We just won't know until we get the numbers from New York State, but we hope we have a strong Christmas season, especially from our Canadian friends because that means we will not have a hole in the county budget," says Mychajliw.

He warns if sales tax revenue continues to dip as it has in recent months compared to last year, there could indeed be a hole in the county budget.

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