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Ahead of Bell: Thanksgiving openings help stores

NEW YORK (AP) -- Retailers that opened their stores earlier this year for holiday shoppers were among those that did well this weekend, an analyst said on Monday.

Deborah Weinswig of Citi Investment Research said in a client note that Thanksgiving night has become the new Black Friday as people headed to shops after eating their holiday dinners to take advantage of sales. But consumers are not buying blindly, she said, explaining that people are concentrating on values and shopping with discipline.

Weinswig said that the big winner over the weekend was Wal-Mart Stores Inc., followed by Target Corp. and J.C. Penney Co. The analyst said that those retailers planned and prepared well for the weekend and that things ran smoothly in their stores.

Weinswig said that Wal-Mart opened at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving night, compared with a 10 p.m. opening a year ago. Target opened at 9 p.m., versus a midnight opening last year. While J.C. Penney did not open until 6 a.m. on Black Friday, the analyst said it did not hurt the retailer's traffic that much as it saw strong sales of home items and footwear.

Sterne, Agee & Leach's Margaret Whitfield said that among the teen retailers, Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and American Eagle Outfitters Inc. were standouts. Abercrombie & Fitch benefited from a 50 percent off discount that was available at its stores on Black Friday from midnight until 6 a.m., while American Eagle had 40 percent off through Sunday.

Some that did not fare as well included Ann Inc.'s Ann Taylor stores, which Whitfield said seemed to have limited traffic because its 40 percent off discount was below last year's 50 percent off. The analyst said that Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.'s customers may have been disappointed by its promotions, which were similar to a year ago. Whitfield noted that half of the doorbuster items at the men's clothing company were the same as last year.

While Black Friday weekend may not have been what every retailer was hoping for this year, Cyber Monday may provide some relief. Cyber Monday, coined in 2005 by a shopping trade group that noticed a spike in online sales on the Monday after Thanksgiving when people returned to their work computers, is the next in a line of days that stores are counting on to jumpstart the holiday shopping season.

This year's Cyber Monday is expected to be the biggest online shopping day of the year for the third year in a row. According to research firm comScore, Americans are expected to spend $1.5 billion, up from $1.25 billion last year on Cyber Monday, as retailers ramp up deals to get shoppers to click on their websites.