Black Friday comes early this year -- and maybe earlier in 2012

Christmas shopping. Holiday shopping moves earlier and earlier.
Black Friday is now on the threshold of becoming Black Thursday, with some major retailers planning to open their doors at midnight -- and some as early as 10 p.m. -- on Thanksgiving Day. What’s next? After-Christmas sales that begin at noon on Christmas Day?

The economy and the difficult retail environment are pushing businesses to grasp for an edge, points out retail strategist Michael Dart.

But they may be willing to go only so far.

“I think we might be pushing up against the cultural limit,” Dart, of consulting firm Kurt Salmon, said in an interview Tuesday with the Los Angeles Times.

Wal-Mart has joined Toys R Us and Kmart to begin its holiday Black Friday sales at 10 p.m. Thursday. Major retailers including Target, Best Buy, Macy’s and Kohl’s are trying a midnight-madness strategy.

Some folks are resisting the trend of ever-earlier holiday store hours. About 194,000 people have joined in an online petition, for instance, begging Target to resist temptation and “Save Thanksgiving.”

Their resistance may be futile.

Think of shopping on Sundays, Dart said. Once upon a time, shopping on Sundays was just not done. But then retailers “started chipping into it,” and “gradually it became something that's expected everywhere.”

If stores do this right, shoppers might find themselves hooked on Black Thursday.

A great shopping experience, Dart said, means the retailer forges “an emotional-mental connection with a consumer.” Part of that is the “fun of treasure hunts … finding great deals.” Costco, for example, has “unexpected great bargains” that “help drive a tremendous amount of traffic” to the cavernous warehouse store.

Then, besides the bargains, there’s the in-store experience. Vancouver-based Lululemon, which has dozens of stores, primarily in the U.S., is all about that experience -- it’s a great place to hang out, Dart said, with “yoga classes and personal trainers and all sorts of information about getting fit in the stores."

So, logically, retailers should be trying to make shopping on Thanksgiving Day a truly delightful experience.

Whether that actually happens remains to be seen. But it’s fairly certain that if crowds show up during the earlier Thanksgiving Day hours, those hours are “here to stay, and then you might start to see it pushing [even] more into Thanksgiving.”

But Christmas Day might be -- just might be -- safe from the holiday shopping frenzy.

“I think it's going to be a brave retailer to say, 'Christmas Day, we're going for it in a big way.' … We're not at the point yet where someone's going to cross that line, although I'm sure people have thought about it.”

RELATED:

Black Thursday, the new Black Friday

Amazon 'penny pincher' sale gets jump on Black Friday

Looking at $20 billion in retail sales, thanks in part to extra store hours

-- Amy Hubbard

Photo: Melanie Canales, 17 months, is surrounded by toys at a Rosemead, Calif., Wal-Mart during Christmas shopping season 2010. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

 

 
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Rene Lynch has been an editor and writer in Metro, Sports, Business, Calendar and Food. @ReneLynch

As an editor and reporter, Michael Muskal has covered local, national, economic and foreign issues at three newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times. @latimesmuskal


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