Black Friday may not carry the clout it did before many retailers started a new practice of opening on Thanksgiving Day, but it still kicks off the holiday shopping season amid predictions by the National Retail Federation that 164 million adults will hit the stores over the weekend.
A handful of stores have announced they will join the trend of tossing out the welcome mat a day early, among them the Cabela’s outdoors chain with a presence at Central Texas Marketplace.
Cabela’s remained shuttered on Thanksgiving Day last year, but since has officially merged with Bass Pro Shops in a $4.2 billion buyout. Bass Pro Shops now calls the shots, meaning Cabela’s will operate from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday, with “Pre-Black Friday Fun” starting outside at 9 p.m. ahead of the store’s reopening from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday.
“At 9 p.m. Thursday, we’ll start our entertainment that will include showing movies on the side of our building, including ‘It’s a Wonderful Life,’ playing trivia games and laser tag, and serving free cocoa, coffee and popcorn. We also will give away 600 gifts,” Cabela’s spokesman John Gilbert said. “If people arrive early to get in line, we want them to have fun.”
As it did last year, Richland Mall at State Highway 6 and Waco Drive will turn dark on Thanksgiving Day before opening at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. Three mall anchors with their own entrances — JC Penney, Sears and Bealls — will join a smattering of the mall’s smaller shops in offering shopping opportunities on Thursday.
Dillard’s never opens on Thanksgiving and probably never will, a spokesman said. The retailer will roust itself at 8 a.m. Friday.
Richland Mall manager Kandace Menning said festivities there will feature games for kids, storebuster promotions, a disc jockey and Santa taking requests. An expanded Bath & Body Works that includes a White Barn gift shop, as well as a remodeled Victoria’s Secret store, will offer crowds a fresh look, Menning said.
“And they can see the construction going on,” she said, referring to a new Dick’s Sporting Goods store scheduled to open in the spring.
The National Retail Federation is predicting a 4 percent increase in holiday sales through Christmas, with customers shelling out $682 billion, spokeswoman Ana Serafin-Smith said.
“The consumer is in a really great place right now,” Serafin-Smith said. “Unemployment rates have been really low, and confidence in the economy has stayed strong. The buying public would seem more willing to splurge and spend on items than at any time in the recent past.”
She said the list of retailers opening on Thanksgiving Day appears to be growing, prompting the National Retail Federation to forecast that 32 million Americans will leave behind the turkey and football games long enough to pursue bargains.
But Black Friday remains the gold standard, Serafin-Smith said. The retail federation is predicting a turnout of 115 million shoppers.
The Target Greatland store at Bosque Boulevard and Wooded Acres Drive will open from 6 p.m. to midnight Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Black Friday, manager Tiffany McQueen said.
“Last year, we opened on Thanksgiving and stayed open through Black Friday. We will have a break this year to take more care of our team,” McQueen said. “It was crazy last year, but I really don’t know what to expect. Will we have great crowds on Thursday, or will shoppers wait until Friday? I know I’m just planning for big crowds both days.”
At Best Buy in Waco, manager Shane Kitzman said he has noticed an increasing number of family members and friends planning excursions to shopping locales on Thanksgiving, just as they do on Black Friday.
Best Buy will open at 5 p.m. Thursday and 8 a.m. Friday, Kitzman said.
Walmart closes one day a year, Christmas Day, so no debate erupted over staying open on Thanksgiving, said Paul Specter, co-manager of the Walmart on Hewitt Drive.
“Our sale begins at 6 p.m. on Thursday, and it will feature TVs, toys and apparel,” Specter said. “We’re expecting a good year because sales have picked up recently, and we’re hearing that more people are traveling this season. We hope that trend continues through Black Friday.”
JC Penney in Richland Mall will open at 2 p.m. Thursday and stay open until 10 p.m. Friday, manager Steven Valdez said.
“Last year, we had about 300 people waiting outside when we opened,” Valdez said. “We’re opening an hour earlier this year, so I would expect an even larger crowd. Plus, we’re offering sales on TVs and PlayStations.”
Valdez said the store will give away discount coupons in denominations of $10, $100 and $500.
The Kohl’s department store at Central Texas Marketplace will open at 5 p.m. Thursday, an hour earlier than last year, and will not dim the lights until midnight Friday, manager William Richards said. That’s a 31-hour run.
Appearing on a cbsnews.com rundown of national chains scheduled to open Thursday are Dollar General, Family Dollar, Old Navy, Toys R Us, Walgreens, GameStop, Michaels, Ace Hardware and Big Lots.
The rundown also lists notable closings for Thanksgiving Day, including Barnes & Noble, Bed Bath & Beyond, Belk, Burlington Coat Factory, Jo-Ann Fabric, Marshalls and Petco.
Toys R Us has filed for bankruptcy protection, but that has not dampened its holiday spirit. It plans to open at 5 p.m. Thursday and will continue to welcome guests until 11 p.m. Friday, according to the company website.