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In a true miracle on 34th Street, Macy's (NYSE: M), that grand old retail giant, announced that they will keep most stores open 24 hours a day for the last push of weekend holiday shopping. Doors are slated to open 7 a.m. on Friday, Dec. 21 and will remain open until 7 a.m. on Sunday morning, but most stores will remain open until midnight Sunday, leading into Christmas Eve. Thirty four stores will remain open until 2 a.m. the morning of Christmas Eve. Macy’s, Inc. operates 850 retail outlets in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico under the names of both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s. Despite competitive pressure, Macy’s refused to open its doors early on Thanksgiving like retail “chasing” competitors Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), and Target (NYSE: TGT), both of whom pushed back Black Friday making Thanksgiving Black Thursday.
Sadly, the mania surrounding Black Friday shopping is impinging deeper into Thanksgiving. Demand from consumers searching for bargains is forcing more brick-and mortar retailers to think about opening their doors earlier each year. The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is when most retailers make their profits for the year. In the face of market-share preservation fears many are bowing to pressure. On Thanksgiving, Target was criticized for expanded hours that outpaced the industry. Last week they announced that they will again push the envelope by staying open until 9pm on Christmas Eve this year. Last year, Toys R Us stayed open for 112 successive hours leading up to Christmas Eve, which will probably occur again this year, with even longer hours, to remain at the front of the drove of competitors.
And now Black Friday is hemorrhaging into the Christmas holiday as consumers are expected to keep walking through doors in response to imaginative sales and extended hours. Though some skeptics remain dubious about how spending will shape up, The National Retail Federation has forecast a 4.1 percent boost in holiday retail spending this year. Also, U.S. consumers have hit a record this year, spending over $1 billion in online, which detracts from the amount of sales made in-store. Roughly 57 million Americans did Black Friday shopping online this year, which is an 18 percent improvement over last year’s sales.
Don’t look for smaller retailers to jump on the extended hour’s bandwagon nor should they have to. Also, not all consumers want to shop at senseless hours, but some do, and the larger retailers are accommodating them. A lot of people work the third shift and for them it’s not convenient to come in during the day. And, while you might think that opening for longer periods would lead to more sales on the whole, buyer budgets aren’t any deeper than they would be if retailers had decided not to extend operating hours. In the end it will be interesting to see if this retail strategy is viable for Macy’s and its competitors.
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