Thanksgiving 2012 falls on the earliest possible November date, but that's not stopping two of America's largest retailers from opening their doors before most people's turkey has even settled.
Target (TGT) and Wal-Mart (WMT) are starting Black Friday at 9 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, respectively, on Thursday, causing a minor uproar with workers and making shoppers wonder exactly how much earlier the Christmas shopping season can possibly start.
Retail guru Hitha Prabhakar says the chains are just doing whatever it takes to stay relevant. "What Wal-Mart and Target want to do is open up their doors so that online shoppers will get out of the house and start their shopping earlier," she tells me in the attached clip.
What Prabhakar calls "Black Friday creep" may offend holiday purists, but the fact is, the brick-and-mortar stores aren't just competing with one another. Amazon (AMZN) and other strictly online operations are open 24/7/365 with great prices and no restrictions on when they can run sales. Target and Wal-Mart have very good websites, but no one can touch Amazon as an online shopping experience. Retailers need to compete on their home turf to capture those shopping dollars, and that means getting people off their backsides and chasing door-busters.
If they don't get your money early, chances are good the stores aren't going to get your money at all. Prabhakar says Black Friday accounts for 10% of overall spending for the year. Customers love to talk about waiting until the last second to do their shopping, but in reality the bulk of the spending on "must haves" is done immediately. The stores can't afford to miss out on the surge.
Those with disdain for the stores opening for business tomorrow have little choice to be thankful the sales aren't beginning even earlier. It's only a matter of time before Black Friday starts on Wednesday night.