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TMCNet:  Savings see early start

[November 21, 2012]

Savings see early start

SEBRING, Nov 21, 2012 (Highlands Today - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- "Not since 2007 has Thanksgiving come this early," states a news release from the National Retail Federation, the world's largest retail trade group.



They weren't talking about eating turkey or pie, but the other Thanksgiving ritual, Black Friday, which usually rolls out in the wee hours of the day after Turkey Day. But this year it starts at many stores late Thanksgiving evening.

The nascent trend has informally acquired the name "Grey Thursday," and analysts say if this year's litmus test gets the cash registers ringing for nervous retailers who are trying to sell as much as they can as soon as they can, Black Friday may end up making a calendar creep in 2013, as well.

Walmart, which kicked off its holiday bonanza at 10 p.m. last year on Thanksgiving, will open two hours earlier, at 8 p.m. Thursday, and will offer its holiday sales in three stages.

Macy's Inc. and Kohl's Corp. have decided for the first time to open at midnight.

Others, including Sears, Toys R Us and Kmart, will also open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Kmart will actually open on Thanksgiving at 6 a.m. and stay open until 4 p.m. Doors will reopen from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m., and then reopen again from 5 a.m. until 11 a.m.

Bealls, Belk and Best Buy's doors open at midnight. Lakeshore Mall will open, as it does, at 6 a.m. on Black Friday.

Michaels' Thanksgiving hours are from 4 p.m. until 11 p.m. Friday, it will open from 7 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Joanne Keating has noticed the sales starting early this year.

In years past, she used to camp out to nab the best doorbuster deals. This year she is going, but a little bit later when some of the crowd subsides, because she needs a TV.

Her 16-year-old RCA TV is "beginning to show its age," she said.

Laura Mann doesn't need to be "pushed around" so she shops online. Jeremy Lee Mikel also has decided not to go Black Friday shopping this year.

"It gets earlier and earlier every year and the retailers are taking away from the Thanksgiving holiday. So this year, we have been shopping early and plan on doing some online shopping," he said.

Some residents, such as Amanda and Josh Watson, also prefer what they say is the hassle-free online shopping route.

They just got a deal on Amazon online that was $5 cheaper than Walmart's "mad house" on Black Friday and had free shipping.

Walmart is rolling out its Black Friday discounts in three stages.

Phase 1 begins at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The best in-store deals are on toys, games, home goods and clothing. Phase 2 follows at 10 p.m. with deals mostly focused on electronics.

This year, the retailer is also guaranteeing that customers who are waiting in line inside the store from 10 p.m. until 11 p.m. will be able to buy three special deals -- Apple iPad2 16GB with Wi-Fi for $399, plus a $75 Walmart gift card; an Emerson 32-inch 720p LCD TV for $148; and an LG Blu-ray player for $38.

If any of these items happen to sell out before 11 p.m. local time, Walmart will offer a "guarantee card" for the item, which must be paid for by midnight and registered online. The product will then be shipped 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," said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising and marketing officer for the retailer.

For Phase 3, Walmart will roll out deals at 5 a.m. that mostly focus on home goods, jewelry, tires and furniture.

Despite this year's early start to the holiday sales, the NRF's preliminary survey showed that 147 million will still shop over Black Friday weekend, either in store or online.

That is a slight decrease from the 152 million who planned to do so last year. Specifically, 71 million said they would shop and another 76 million said they would wait and see what retailers have in the store that weekend.

"Though the Black Friday tradition is here to stay, there's no question that it has changed in recent years; already there is a tremendous amount of excitement and anticipation surrounding retailers' Thanksgiving and Black Friday promotions," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

Retailers will also use CyberMonday.com to promote their Cyber Monday deal of the hour.

___ (c)2012 the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) Visit the Highlands Today (Sebring, Fla.) at www.highlandstoday.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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