Local retailers expanding operating hours for Black Friday
by Patrick McCreless
Nov 12, 2013 | 3519 views |  0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Sears assistant manager Michelle Lipham and store manager Josh Austin look over merchandise in the Jacksonville store. Photo by Bill Wilson.
Sears assistant manager Michelle Lipham and store manager Josh Austin look over merchandise in the Jacksonville store. Photo by Bill Wilson.
It appears many area shoppers will need to eat their turkey quickly to take full advantage of Thanksgiving holiday shopping deals this year.

In recent years many retailers have opted to extend the start of the traditional holiday shopping season — the Friday after Thanksgiving, known as Black Friday — into Thanksgiving itself. This year is no different, with many retailers offering more deals earlier than ever for the holiday shopping season. It's part of a strategy to collect as many consumer dollars as possible while compensating for a shorter-than-usual shopping season this year, some retailers and experts say.

Dustin Benitez, general manager of the Midtown Outlet furniture store in Anniston, said his business decided to get an earlier start on the holiday shopping season this year, offering special deals every Friday this month leading up to Black Friday. Benitez said Midtown Outlet will have special deals on a few items each Friday this month, followed by dramatically reduced prices on 50 items on Black Friday.

"It's a new strategy ... we just ran across some really great deals from our suppliers and wanted to get them out there," Benitez said. "We want to take advantage of the deals and get in as many customers as we can."

Benitez noted, however, that Midtown Outlet will open at 9 a.m. on Black Friday as usual and will be closed on Thanksgiving Day.

Many national retail chains, however, will open on Thanksgiving even earlier than they did last year. According to a Monday press release from Target, the national chain will open its stores at 8 p.m. Nov. 28, an hour earlier than last year. Other retailers have already announced their intent to open earlier on Thanksgiving this year, including Macy's and J.C. Penney.

Josh Austin, manager of Sears in Jacksonville, said his store will open earlier this year, from 7 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving and then from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Black Friday.

"There will be different deals each day," Austin said. "It was just something Sears wanted to do."

Nancy King Dennis, spokeswoman for the Alabama Retail Association, said retailers are pushing their deals back earlier this year to make up for a short holiday season.

"There are five less shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year — Thanksgiving is much later than it has been in the past," Dennis said.

But even without the later Thanksgiving, the holiday shopping season has started progressively earlier in recent years, Dennis said.

"The main reason is customers are demanding it; they want to be out shopping," Dennis said. "If they weren't out shopping, the retailers wouldn't be doing it."

Dennis said retailers have good reason to expect shoppers will come out in force this Thanksgiving. According to the Alabama Retail Association, state retailers have had some of their best sales months this year since before 2008’s Great Recession.

"We expect a 2 percent growth in Alabama holiday sales compared to last year, a total of almost $8.9 billion," Dennis said.

Brooke McCulley, marketing director for the Quintard Mall in Oxford, said the mall has seen great success since it started opening its doors at midnight on Black Friday three years ago.

"We see a lot of shoppers overnight," McCulley said.

McCulley said many of the mall's tenants will open even earlier this year. For instance, Toys R Us and Bath and Body Works will open at 5 p.m. while Goody's will open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. McCulley said the mall will give away a $250 gift card on Thursday and another one on Friday, as a way to entice more people to shop.

Mike Manos, operations manager for Wakefield's Inc, which runs Martin's Family Clothing and Wakefield's stores in Anniston and Oxford, said his stores will have plenty of deals for the shopping holiday. However, Martin's and Wakefield's will not open on Thanksgiving, but will open at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.

"About a few years ago we used to open at 6 a.m. but we moved it to 5 a.m. ... we feel we can get our business starting at that time," Manos said. "Black Friday is just such a huge day for all the retailers."

Staff writer Patrick McCreless: 256-235-3561. On Twitter @PMcCreless_Star.

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