Black Friday shoppers, set your watches — err, smartphones — for 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.
That time is shaping up to be the main event for the big shopping frenzy this year. On Monday, Minneapolis-based Target said it would open then, too, two hours earlier than last year.
In doing so, it joins Macy’s, Kohl’s, Staples, and Sears as well as many local shopping malls. They are walking a tightrope between not wanting to miss out on sales and also not wanting to anger shoppers by encroaching too far on holiday meals and family time.
“I think 6 may be the new 8 just because every year there has to be something new,” said Carol Spieckerman, a retail consultant with newmarketbuilders. “It becomes an ‘Everybody’s doing it’ type of dynamic.”
J.C. Penney and Toys ‘R’ Us are getting a jump start at 5 p.m. Radio Shack is opening many of its stores at 8 a.m. on Thanksgiving morning. Kmart, which has opened on Thanksgiving morning for years, will open at 6 a.m. this year.
The two main laggards who have not yet announced their hours are Richfield-based Best Buy and Wal-Mart.
As other retailers have done, Target also said it will also pull forward some of its Black Friday deals before Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart did so last week in a one-day online event. Amazon, J.C.Penney, and Sears are among others who have been hyping pre-Black Friday sales.
Promotions all weekend
On Monday, Target held a one-day flash sale on its website, an event it designed to test its store pickup service before holiday shopping picks up.
“We also want to make sure we’re holding enough inventory for Black Friday, which is why the offers are only available for one day,” Amy Joiner, a Target spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.
On the day before Thanksgiving, Target will make another round of yet-to-be-disclosed Black Friday deals available in stores and at Target.com. On top of the Black Friday deals, there will be other promotions to draw shoppers throughout the weekend such as 10 percent off Target gift cards from 6 a.m. to noon on Friday and other discounts on Saturday as well as online deals the following week.
“It seems a little complex and convoluted,” said Spieckerman. “It might be difficult for shoppers to follow and keep track of.”
She added that Target is not alone in diluting the season with Black Friday promotions sprinkled throughout November.
Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst with Moody’s Investors Service, said he’s noticed earlier holiday deals this year. But the question is when they will be the deepest and how long they will last.
“Some of the TV prices I saw over the weekend were pretty low,” he said, mentioning some price tags he saw while in a Best Buy store. “There will be bargains every weekend between now and Christmas.”
The holiday season is expected to be slightly better for retailers than the last couple of seasons with many holiday forecasts calling for a 3 to 4 percent uptick in sales. But retailers are not resting on the prospect of a strong season. They are going after consumers’ wallets early in the season.
“If you can pick off somebody today, you got them,” said O’Shea. “You don’t have to worry about losing them in December. The question is how much margin are you giving up to do that.”