Black Thursday is the New Black Friday, But Will It Really Boost Sales?

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Shoppers in a shopping cart jam looking for 'Door Buster' Christmas deals at Toys ''R'' Us on Thanksgiving Day in Royal Palm Bea
It's beginning to feel like the retail industry expects us to wrap up our Thanksgiving dinners and take them to go.

Toys R Us, Best Buy (BBY), and Target (TGT) became the latest retailers to announce that they would be opening on Thursday -- or opening earlier on Thursday -- this pivotal holiday shopping season.
  • Toys "R" Us will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than last year.
  • Best Buy will greet turkey-fueled shoppers at 6 p.m. with its slate of deals on consumer electronics.
  • Target -- after opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving last year -- will kick open the doors to its cheap chic stores at 8 p.m.
With so many retailers breaking into their holiday selling seasons on Thanksgiving, is it time to retire Black Friday?

Creeping Earlier

Last month it was Walmart (WMT) and Macy's (M) turning heads with their Thanksgiving night openings. Critics argued that it wasn't fair to make employees come in early on the holiday -- or to disrupt festive family fetes to woo shoppers -- but there's naturally another side to the story.

Employees hungry for more hours welcome the additional time on the clock that's often paid at a higher rate than their hourly wages. They have holiday gifts to shop for too, after all.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Nor are Shoppers universally panning the earlier "Black Thursday" sales. Many didn't consider it a treat to head out to stores at midnight or during the wee hours on Friday morning. Missing out on pumpkin pie, Uncle Nestor's story about how he was almost a member of The Beatles, or what should be meaningless game between the Ravens and Steelers may be easy sacrifices to make in exchange for the ability to sleep in Friday morning and still get the deals.

Blame It On the Calendar

Sears Holdings' (SHLD) Kmart has been opening on Thanksgiving for 22 years, and rivals didn't seem to care until the past few years. However, even Kmart came under attack earlier this year for its decision to open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving.

Why is Kmart leading retailers to open earlier this holiday season? You may as well blame the calendar.

Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday of November, and this year, that just happens to be Nov. 28. That's the latest possible day for the holiday, making Nov. 29 the latest possible Black Friday.

It goes without saying that retailers live for the holiday shopping season. An attempt to combat the late start this year by opening their doors a day -- or at the very least a few hours -- earlier than usual almost makes sense.

Looking Out to Next Yeat

Retailers won't divulge their plans for 2014 until at least next October.

Thanksgiving 2014 will also happen relatively late -- Nov. 27 -- giving stores plenty of incentive to do anything possible to milk sales early in the season. If one retailer or another looks poised to lock up some holiday shopping lists with an earlier-than-ever sale, you can be sure that rivals will be quick to keep up.

However, the biggest factor determining if retailers' operating hours continue to creep earlier into Thanksgiving Thursday will be if the move was successful this time.

Chains that opened on Thanksgiving last year didn't necessarily see dramatic upticks in comparable-store sales. Walmart and Sears didn't even keep pace with inflation. However, with so many chains giving it a go this year, the retail market will have plenty of data to answer the question of whether or not opening on Thanksgiving was a win -- or a waste.

Motley Fool contributor Rick Munarriz has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our newsletter services free for 30 days.
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