Sears Holdings Corp. is joining the stampede of retailers opening doors to bargain hunters on Thanksgiving instead of waiting for Black Friday.
The company said Monday that its namesake brand will welcome patrons at 8 p.m. on Turkey Day and keep the lights on through 10 p.m. the following evening.
Sister company Kmart will host a 41-hour shopping marathon, kicking off its doorbuster deals at 6 a.m. on Nov. 28 and wrapping them up at 11 p.m. on Black Friday.
The day after Thanksgiving has long been considered the traditional kick-off to holiday shopping mayhem. But in recent years, antsy bargain-hunters have been able to swarm into stores earlier and earlier.
In 2010, Sears served customers from 7 a.m until noon on Thanksgiving. The chain stayed closed during the holiday the following year but then decided to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving 2012.
Kmart has opened at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving since at least 2010, but has not allowed all-night shopping sprees until now.
Retailers are especially nervous about the holiday season this year, which was prefaced by months of lukewarm retail sales and a confidence-shattering government shutdown.
A poll from the National Foundation for Credit Counseling found Monday that 53% of shoppers plan to spend less on holiday gift giving this year than they did in 2012. A third say they’ll spend nothing; only 3% intend to spend more.
A separate survey Monday, from financial consulting firm BDO, concluded that retailers expect a 2.5% increase in holiday sales at stores open at least a year. That’s far more pessimistic than last year’s predictions, which ultimately proved to be too upbeat.
The BDO report said that 69% of respondents believe electronics will be the bestselling product segment – up from less than a quarter in 2009.
Just 3% of those surveyed said toys will be the hottest category, down from 39% four years ago.
Nearly two-thirds of retailers anticipate inventory levels on par with last year’s, suggesting that they expect similar demand from consumers.
“We’re seeing retailers enter the holiday season with realistic, rather than optimistic, expectations,” said Doug Hart, partner in BDO’s retail division, in a statement.
But for Brian Sozzi, chief executive of Belus Capital Advisors, the outlook on Kmart is nowhere near cheery.
Posting on his website Monday, Sozzi ripped into Kmart and what he called its “dreadful to visit, borderline unsafe stores that are sending the division’s financials down a path of no return.”
He pointed to charts showing the steady decline in the number of Kmart stores compared to the steadily growing unit counts at Wal-Mart and Target. Kmart, he said, has also suffered eight straight quarters of same-store sales declines preceded by a flat quarter.
Sozzi also put up photos of misspelled signage, un-stocked shelves, products displayed on dingy pallets, dusty goods and corroded floors that he said were from Kmart stores.
Kmart has been trying to make itself more accessible to shoppers. On Monday, the chain touted its “seamless ways to shop online,” including options to purchase items digitally and then have them picked up by friends or family.
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