Thanksgiving night, an evening traditionally reserved for blissful, turkey-induced slumber, has been invaded by a new American tradition: Black Thursday shopping.
Retailers this year are upping the ante in the game they started in 2011 and plan to open even earlier on Thursday night -- some as early as 8 p.m. -- to get a jump on their competitors.
"It's like baseball -- it's America's favorite pastime," said Todd Jerscheid, director of mall marketing and business development for the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.
|Check your local retailer for hours of the store nearest you|
|Midnight Friday||9 p.m.||8 p.m.|
|Macy's||Toys "R" Us|
But the squeeze on the Thanksgiving holiday has prompted some retail worker strikes and dozens of online petitions calling on stores to "save" Thanksgiving. More stores and area malls this year are joining retailers like Macy's and Best Buy in starting their Black Friday hours at midnight -- up from the traditional early opening of 4 and 5 a.m.
Others are also hopping on the Thursday night bandwagon, started last year when Walmart stores opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving. This year, Walmart will open at 8 p.m., as will Toys "R" Us, Kmart and Sears. Target plans to open at 9 p.m.
When asked how far into the Thanksgiving holiday retailers were daring to go, National Retail Federation spokeswoman Kathy Grannis said it depends on the demand from shoppers.
"If this does continue to grow next year, retailers will re-evaluate what time they should open," she said. "But I think eventually they'll meet a plateau."
The steep discounts offered -- like $180 for a 40-inch flat screen TV that typically sells for $420 -- draw out millions of people for the official kickoff of holiday shopping. Roughly 147 million adults said they will shop or are considering shopping this weekend, according to a survey conducted by BIGresearch. The remaining one-third of the nation's adults said they're staying home.
Lea Teem and her daughter Ashley said they plan on hitting the Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets on Friday, as they do every year.
"It's almost like a family tradition for us," Lea said. But they won't consider shopping on Thanksgiving night.
"I feel like every family deserves time together on Thanksgiving," she said.
That sentiment has inspired the retail sector's strongest push-back yet against the movement to start Black Friday before, well, Friday.
Target's move up from last year's midnight opening prompted a protest petition on Change.org that has garnered more than a quarter-million signatures. Starting last week, Walmart workers began planned protests across the country. On Monday, employees at Landover's Walmart walked off the job to protest the way the company has handled the Thanksgiving holiday.
Danit Marquardt, a spokeswoman for Walmart, said that the company's supercenters are open 24 hours, so working Thanksgiving Day is not new.
"Our associates are here and ready to serve our customers," she said.
But Cindy Murray, an associate at the Walmart supercenter in Laurel, said workers were upset because they felt like they were being taken advantage of. Murray, who had requested Thursday off to spend with her children and grandchildren, found out last week that she would be working the 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. shift Thanksgiving Day. And with the doorbusters beginning at 8 p.m., the stores are now requiring more people to work earlier.
"I feel as though, 'Where's my time with my family?' There is none," Murray said. "I think all stores should take up the practice of shutting their doors on this holiday. I don't think that's a whole lot to ask."
But it's unlikely the trend will stop, said Grannis, who noted retailers will do whatever they can to remain competitive in November and December, as those months often determine a retailer's profit for that year.
"Competition is part of the reason retailers started to look into these hours," she said, adding that brick-and-mortar stores are getting increasing competition from online retailers. "The busiest online shopping day from 2003 to 2010 was on Thanksgiving ... I think that shows there is a desire among consumers."