America’s favorite gastronomic holiday and America’s favorite shopping holiday have long coexisted at Bass Pro Shops.
The national outdoors and sporting goods retailer has opened its stores on Thanksgiving morning for 40 years. Inside the local location at Savannah Mall, “it gets pretty tight by mid-morning,” according to operations manager Chris Finnegan.
Savannah’s other retailers aren’t yet ready to follow Bass’ lead and kick off Black Friday before the Thanksgiving turkey comes out of the oven. But more and more are extending the biggest shopping day of the year into Thanksgiving night.
At least five big-box retailers — Kmart, Sears, Target, Toys R Us and Walmart — will open in primetime, either 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. Other popular destinations, including Best Buy, Kohl’s, Old Navy, Gap and Victoria’s Secret, will wait until midnight.
Late night openings will be the norm at Oglethorpe Mall. While the local shopping mecca doesn’t officially open until 6 a.m. Friday, 42 of its stores open at midnight, including local favorite the Stagg Shoppe menswear store.
“We were stubborn last year and waited to open until 6 a.m. and missed out,” said Stagg Shoppe owner Pam Miltiades. “The usual 6 o’clock rush came when the other stores opened earlier. We have to accept that this is the new reality.”
The so-called “Thanksgiving creep” of Black Friday is accelerating. Black Friday store openings have been pushing into the wee hours of the morning for much of the last decade and finally encroached on Thanksgiving last year. Toys R Us and Walmart opened on Thanksgiving night in 2011 and fueled a 6 million person increase of Thanksgiving Day shoppers, according to National Retail Federation data.
The Thanksgiving night sales pushed Black Friday spending to a record-setting $11.4 billion last year, according to market research company ShopperTrak.
The success of that experiment prompted the more widespread implementation of so-called “Gray Thursday” sales this year. Opening on Thanksgiving night spreads out the shopping schedule, which retailers hope will attract shoppers who might otherwise stay home on Black Friday morning for fear of the crush.
Given that Black Friday weekend spending can account for as much as 40 percent of retailers’ annual profits, the Thanksgiving shopping phenomenon is sure to grow. The Stagg Shoppe’s Miltiades envisions Thanksgiving becoming "just another Christmas season shopping day" within a few years, with retailers following Bass Pro Shop's lead and opening about the time the Macy's parade comes on television.
Thanksgiving day customers “avoid the craziness of Black Friday,” said Ric Brown, general manager of the Bass Pro Shop at Savannah Mall, which is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and opens at 5 a.m. Black Friday. “I suspect that retailers in general continue to look at gaining advantage over their competition and believe that more will continue to try and get a piece of the pie on Thanksgiving.”
Even if it comes at the expense of a real piece of pie at the dinner table.
SAVANNAH GIFT GUIDE
For store information and gift ideas, check out the Savannah Gift Guide included with the Thanksgiving Day newspaper or visit savannahgiftguide.com.