Retailers opening doors earlier for Black Friday
Shoppers used to waking up before dawn to get a jump-start on Black Friday will find that strategy woefully obsolete this year.
That's because several major retailers have decided to push their door-buster deals even earlier than Friday morning, all jockeying for position to earn consumer dollars in a wobbly economy.
"Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday," said Shawn Dubravac, the Consumer Electronics Association's director of research. "It's a bit of an arms race to see who can have an early start."
At the head of the pack is Toys "R" Us, which for the first time is opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and said it would offer the same deals through 11 p.m. Friday.
Walmart is opening at 10 p.m. on the holiday, while other retailers -- including Macy's, Target and Best Buy -- announced so-called "Black Midnight" openings.
"Black Friday has increasingly become an event, a ritual for so many," Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn said in a statement. "And this year, Black Friday doesn't start the day after Thanksgiving, it starts the minute after Thanksgiving."
So can shoppers actually expect any better deals this year?
Generally, yes, Dubravac said.
"You're seeing across-the-board deals are better this year," he said. "Price points are lower."
The earlier openings will prod even more people to shop sooner, industry observers said. Spending this Black Friday is expected to increase by 1.2%, to just less than $12 billion, according to research firm IBISWorld.
But surveys show that consumers this holiday season won't necessarily loosen their purse strings any more than a year ago. The average shopper will spend $395 on gifts, down from $466 in 2010, according to research firm Deloitte LLP.
"It's not just about the money that people have, but it's about their confidence in the economy," said Tom Meyvis, an associate professor of marketing at NYU. "If you don't know if things will get worse and you could lose your job down the road, you're going to spend less, even if you don't have to."
Black Friday by the numbers
How much consumers are expected to spend at retail locations, according to research firm IBISWorld
How much consumers spent at retail locations last year
Estimated number of Americans who shopped in stores and online from Thursday through Sunday last year, including Black Friday, according to the National Retail Federation
Estimated number of shoppers who hit the stores before 4 a.m. on Black Friday last year