US retailers are pushing the envelope on holiday shopping sales that traditionally start the day after the Thanksgiving Day holiday, and some employees are pushing back.
A number of major retailers, seeking to lure shoppers into spending more, have advanced the start of sales for “Black Friday,” which this year is on November 25.
The day after Thanksgiving earned the name “Black Friday” as the day when some retailers see their year’s net earnings move from the red into the black column — profits instead of losses — for the first time during the year.
Retail sales numbers on Tuesday suggested that consumers could be ready to shake off the still-gloomy economy and open their wallets to spread holiday cheer.
Retail sales rose 0.5 percent in October from September, the Commerce Department reported, topping market expectations.
“Early Black Friday sales may have pushed forward some demand but regardless, it does look like households are out there spending,” said Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors.
A case in point was Wal-Mart, the world’s biggest retailer, which announced last week it would jump the gun, opening stores at 10:00 pm Thursday.
“By sharing our Black Friday specials earlier than ever, we hope to make buying decisions easier for parents working hard to give their families the Christmas they deserve,” said Duncan Mac Naughton, chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart US.
Meanwhile Target, Walmart US’s discount rival, has sparked a furor over its decision to open the doors at midnight on Thanksgiving Thursday, several hours earlier than its prior 5:00 am Friday start.
Target employees will need to arrive for work by 11:00 pm Thursday, cutting short the family-oriented holiday best known for its lavish roast turkey dinners.
An online petition created by a Target employee and addressed to Target president and chief executive Greg Steinhafel calls on the company to “save Thanksgiving” by returning to the original Friday opening time.
“A full holiday with family is not just for the elite of this nation — all Americans should be able to break bread with loved ones and get a good night’s rest on Thanksgiving!” the petition on change.org says.
The petition has gone viral, with more 91,000 signatures collected by late Tuesday.
The backlash came in the context of the outrage expressed by Occupy Wall Street protests over economic inequalities, summed up by the math that one percent of wealthy Americans run the affairs of the remaining 99 percent of the population.
“It’s a national holiday not a national shopping day… maybe try giving thanks for your employees that bring you so much money,” wrote Bryce Allison on the petition blog.
Other big retailers will man their cash registers early, including electronics giant Best Buy, which is opening its doors at 12:00 am Friday.
Toy titan Toys “R” US is opening at 9:00 pm Thursday, before Walmart, Best Buy and Target.
With consumer spending the main growth driver in the world’s largest economy, the October retail data from the Commerce Department provided a bright signal on the crucial year-end shopping season.
“Despite fears that a drop in the savings rate in the third quarter would curb consumer spending growth in the fourth quarter, and amidst weak readings on consumer confidence, retail sales growth remained quite brisk at the start of the fourth quarter,” RDQ Economics analysts said.
The initial signs have been good for the holiday season that peaks at Christmas on December 25.
In October, electronics and appliance store sales jumped 3.7 percent from September, the sharpest rise in two years.
Also, nonstore retail sales — mainly Internet sales — rose 1.5 percent in October from the prior month and were 11.1 percent higher than a year earlier.
But with high unemployment still hovering around 9.0 percent more than two years after the recession ended, a depressed housing market and political uncertainty about the government’s drive to slash debt and deficits, consumers remain under pressure, analysts cautioned. — AFP RELAXNEWS