LIMA — Is Thanksgiving Thursday the new Black Friday?
For years, retailers have been inching earlier and earlier in the day on the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, opening at 6 a.m. Friday, then 5 a.m., then midnight. Last year some major retailers, including Walmart and Toys R Us, dipped their toes into the actual holiday, pushing Black Friday back to Thursday night.
Many consumers embraced the idea, trading their post-Thanksgiving naps and cleaning up the dishes for shopping. This year, Toys R Us and Walmart lead the way, opening at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively. JCPenney, Sears and Kohl's all open at 8 p.m. Thursday. Kmart and Meijer are open all day Thanksgiving, with separate sales just for the day.
The Friday-turned-to-Thursday is one of several significant trends happening over the kickoff weekend of shopping season. More than half of consumers will shop for gifts online, and a growing number are using smart phones, tablets, social media and apps to help shop. How people shop continues to change in major ways, as they remain wary of an unstable economy and plan to spend judiciously.
While many retailers are new to Thursday, Meijer has long been open all day.
Meijer will have three separate rounds of doorbusters, at 6 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with separate deals online and the popular Santa Bucks sale on Saturday, said Meijer spokesman Joe Hirschmugl.
“We're giving shoppers options how to personalize their savings,” Hirschmugl said. “They don't have to set their alarm for 3 a.m. and don't need to take a number for a hot product. We think how we have our sales structured makes for a happier shopping experience, better quality and selection, and shoppers have some breathing room.”
Customers are already Christmas shopping and looking for deep discounts retailers are providing now.
Molly Winemiller, of Anna, used to be a die-hard Black Friday shopper, until she had kids.
“I'm not going to lie. If my sister and I could find sitters, we'd be out there,” she said while shopping at Meijer with her mother, Judy Wells, of Sidney. “When we shopped, we'd leave early Friday. We were never going to be those people who camp in tents at Best Buy.”
Wells is hosting Thanksgiving and expects at least one relative to leave Thursday night for the stores. She said she'd prefer if the stores weren't open at all.
With 15 grandchildren and a great-grandchild, Wells has started shopping already.
“I'd like to get each of them something they want, not just buy to buy,” Wells said.
Mary Hoffman, of Kalida, was also starting her Christmas shopping at Meijer. She had already made two or three gift shopping trips. In her cart were games, books and art and craft sets.
“I start early to manage my budget, but sometimes it just means I end up buying more,” she said, laughing. She shops on Black Friday weekend but typically waits until the afternoon, she said.
Retailers are eager to make the experience an event, beyond the deals.
At Kohl's, for example, the store is again running its “Dream Receipt” contest, picking up the tab for some shoppers. Also customers waiting for doors to open Thursday night can post on social media “fun stories about what's happening in line at their local Kohl's store,” company spokeswoman Sydney Hofer said. If they use #KohlsBlackFriday on Twitter and Instagram, they'll be entered in a gift card contest.
The National Retail Federation has a cautious outlook for the holiday spending season, in part because Washington gridlock affected consumer confidence. The federation's forecast of the average holiday shopper spending $738 this year is 2 percent less than the $752 they spent last year. The federation's overall forecast for holiday sales is $602.1 billion, a 3.9 percent increase.
“Though the foundation for solid holiday season growth exists, Americans are questioning the stability of our economy, our government and their own finances,” federation President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a statement. “We expect consumers to set a modest budget for gifts and other holiday-related purchases as they wait and see what will become of the U.S. economy in the coming months.”