More stores will open on Thanksgiving Day to accommodate eager shoppers.
Katie Evans , Managing Editor, International Research
The Thanksgiving Day turkey isn’t yet carved, but both store and web retailers are prepped and ready for two of the biggest holiday shopping days of the year that fall at the end of November: Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. And shopping is increasingly encroaching on the holiday itself.
Many stores are opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. In what it is calling “The Best Black Friday Ever” Wal-Mart, No. 4 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, announced it will start offering its Black Friday deals in stores before Friday even hits, namely at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night. And it’s also guaranteeing that shoppers who are inside the store and in line between 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. local time on Thanksgiving can purchase the following electronics at sale prices: the Apple iPad2 16GB with Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $75 Wal-Mart gift card; an Emerson 32-inch LCD TV for $148; and an LG Blu-ray player for $38.
If any of those items sell out before 11 p.m. local time, Wal-Mart will offer what it calls a Guarantee Card to the shopper to secure the item at the sale price. The shopper must pay for the item by midnight and then Wal-Mart will ship it to the store where it was purchased for the customer to pick up before Christmas.
“We know it’s frustrating for customers to shop on Black Friday and not get the items they want,” says Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer, Wal-Mart U.S. “This year, for the first time ever, customers that shop during Wal-Mart’s one-hour event will be guaranteed to have three of the most popular items under their tree at a great low price.”
The retailer also matches prices of products in stores with those in ads of its competitors. And, beginning Nov. 19, customers will be able to view and print special Black Friday local store maps on Walmart.com and local Wal-Mart Facebook pages. Customers can view an interactive local store map on their mobile phone via Wal-Mart’s mobile app. The mobile map enables customers to click on items to see their price, product description and location in the store.
Nor is Wal-Mart neglecting the web. The retailer is hosting a two-day online-only sale on Walmart.com starting early on Thanksgiving Day and extending through Black Friday.
Macy’s Inc., No. 14 in the Top 500, also is aiming to get a head start on its store sales. It’s opening its stores at midnight on Black Friday. And, like Wal-Mart, it also has added a new Black Friday feature on its mobile app to help customers browse and shop for specials specific to their local stores.
“Black Friday is a day dedicated to finding the best deals,” said Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer. “For the first time last year, Macy’s stores nationwide opened at midnight and our customers loved getting a head start on their holiday shopping. Based on their enthusiastic response, we plan to repeat it again this year.”
Meanwhile, department store Kohl’s Corp. will open its doors nationwide at 12 a.m. on Black Friday and stay open for 24 hours. Kohl’s, No. 28 in the Top 500, also will offer Early Bird specials via Kohls.com starting on Wednesday, Nov. 21, the day before Thanksgiving.
Target Corp. and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. stores are also on the laundry list of stores planning to open on Thanksgiving—at 9 p.m. and 8 p.m., respectively—perhaps before consumers’ turkey dinners have even settled. Target Corp. is No. 23 in the Top 500, while Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. is No. 29.
Not to be left out, web-only retailers are also prepping for big sales from now through Christmas.
Home goods e-retailer Wayfair.com, No. 50 in the guide, has doubled its warehouse space to prepare for the influx of online orders. The additional 200,000 square feet of room is spread across its facilities in Hebron, KY and Ogden, UT. Wayfair.com is also offering two-day shipping on 20,000 products over the holidays—500% more than last year. And it is hiring more seasonal warehouse workers to meet increased sales demand. It plans to increase warehouse staff by 40% in at both its east and East Coast and West Coast locations over the holidays.
"Last year, Cyber Monday was one of the best overall revenue days in Wayfair history,” says Niraj Shah, CEO of Wayfair.com. “This year, our goal is to go into Black Friday and Cyber Monday with significantly more products in our two-day shipping program, which means that between the product expansion and our overall growth, we needed a lot more warehouse space. We are now well-stocked on both coasts.”
Meanwhile, web-only retail giant Amazon.com, No. 1 in the guide, announced Nov. 1 the launch of its Black Friday Deals Store. Holiday shoppers can browse various discounted products and also gift cards while a digital clock counts down to “Black Friday Deals Week”—that is, the week that leads up to Thanksgiving and the day after. The shop offers a Deal of the Day and other limited-time promotions and discounts every day until the popular holiday shopping week kicks off.
Other smaller online-only shops like men's jewelry retailer King Ice have announced they will be having Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
"Cyber Monday in 2011 was our heaviest day of the year in terms of traffic," says Tom Diep of King Ice. "We're expecting a significant increase this year.”
And eBay, after sponsoring a survey that determined that the typical Thanksgiving meal ends at 5:23 p.m., announced today special deals starting at exactly that time for consumers accessing eBay via mobile phones and tablets.
Even one major retail chain that’s backed off using discounts as a sales tactic in the past year is making an exception during the pivotal shopping week. J.C. Penney Co. Inc., No. 20 in the guide, whose new CEO Ron Johnson revamped the chain’s marketing strategy to tout everyday low prices rather than sales, will offer special discounts on one day in the year—Black Friday—both online and in stores. Additionally, jcp.com will also host a Cyber Monday sale beginning on Nov. 25 with free shipping and online-only specials.
J.C. Penney will also join the ranks of those stores opening their doors early. J.C. Penny department store employees—equipped with mobile checkout devices—will begin welcoming shoppers at 6 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving.