Holiday shopping marathon starts as consumer sentiment remains shaky

Thu Nov 22, 2012 7:57am EST
 

By Brad Dorfman

(Reuters) - Forget that Turkey trot. Thanksgiving is now the start of the annual holiday shopping endurance race, as more stores open on Thursday's national holiday to seek a bigger share of spending that is expected to grow slowly this season.

Target Corp has joined Wal-Mart and Gap Inc in being open at least part of the day, and some retailers will be open throughout the day, a trend that began to take hold in 2011.

Traditionally, retailers enticed shoppers with "doorbuster" deals early Friday morning. Then they shifted to midnight following Thanksgiving.

Now Walmart's U.S. discount stores, which will already be open during the day, will offer some "Black Friday" deals at 8 p.m. and special deals on some electronics at 10 p.m. Target has moved its opening from midnight to 9 p.m. on Thursday and Toys R Us is opening at 8 p.m.

Other retailers, like J.C. Penney Co Inc are holding out and will not open until Friday morning, so shoppers trying to get all the deals will need a lot of stamina.

"The retailers are taking what was a very plannable sport that was four or five hours where you can get things done and turned it into a marathon," Trutina Financial Chief Investment Officer Patty Edwards said. "I think the retailers have diluted the sport."

The stakes are high for U.S. retailers, which can earn more than a third of their annual sales in the holiday season. Investors hope holiday sales will help retail stocks cap a strong year. The Standard & Poor's retail index is up almost 27 percent this year, compared with a 10.6 percent increase for the broader S&P 500.

The National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, forecast a 4.1 percent increase in retail sales during the November-December holiday period this year, down from the 5.6 percent increase seen in 2011.   Continued...

 
Customers shop at Macy's department store in New York November 25, 2011. REUTERS/Eric Thayer