Despite some backlash against early store openings on Thanksgiving Day, retailers could see a record number of shoppers as Black Friday 2011 got underway.
The National Retail Federation estimates that the number of shoppers hitting stores the day after Thanksgiving will be up 10 percent from last year.
An estimated 152 million people are expected to shop over Black Friday weekend.
Some stores, looking to grab as big a piece as possible of what is expected to be a middling holiday shopping season pushed post-Thanksgiving openings into Thursday evening or opened at midnight for the first time in years, getting a jump start on “Black Friday,” the traditional beginning to the U.S. holiday shopping season.
“Black Friday will be strong because so many stores are opening Thursday and that gives consumers at least six more hours to shop,” said Candace Corlett of WSL Strategic Retail, a New York-based consulting firm.
“It will also attract people who may be willing to go out Thursday night, but aren’t about to get up early Friday morning,” she said.
Electronic store officials say they’re going to be “playing offense” to get consumers to spend on TVs. Some retailers are offering bottom barrel prices on hot video games to lure shoppers.
Target, Macy’s and Best Buy are all opening their stores at midnight, while Toys R Us and Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, will be inviting deal-seekers inside late on Thanksgiving Day.
Retail executives and analysts are predicting a more competitive season than 2010. Unemployment still remains at 9 percent, European debt woes are weighing on the stock market and consumer confidence remains spotty.
NRF, an industry trade group, forecast a 2.8 percent increase in sales for the November-December holiday season, down from the 5.2 percent increase in 2010.
The early openings and huge discounts may not be enough to get those consumers concerned about the economy into stores. More than 60 percent of Americans say they expect the economy to influence their holiday shopping this year, a survey from the NRF found. Consumers barely boosted spending in October, according to the Commerce Department, indicating holiday shopping may be slow.
Toys and electronics are likely to be the biggest draws this year, experts say. In fact, LCD TV prices are expected to hit an all-time low this Black Friday, according to DisplaySearch.
As for toys, popular brands like LeapFrog and Crayola will be greatly discounted at Toys R Us and elsewhere which will really drive toy sales, said Jim Silver, editor in chief of TimetoPlayMag.com.
In fact some shoppers even feel as though the recession has returned, even if it has not shown up in economic data.
“This year, we are going to do shopping but I don’t think it is going to be as much shopping as we usually do. Because of the recession, we are not going to shop as much,” Desiree Schoolfield, 49, a public service profession from Queens who was shopping at the Toys R Us in Times Square, said.
A small segment of the Occupy Wall Street movement has also suggested a boycott of the major retailers on Black Friday “to send an economic message to big business and banks that profits over consumers is not good business,” according to the site stopblackfriday.com. Although that’s unlikely to gain much momentum, retail experts say.
“I don’t think it’s going to have any impact on consumer spending for Christmas,” said Britt Beemer, retail analyst and chairman of America’s Research Group, “unless protestors happen to be blocking the entrance of a store,” he added. [via Reuters, Huff Post and CNN]