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Retailers Push Limits With Extended Store Hours to Lure Shoppers

Shoppers eager for doorbuster deals enter the Roseville, Minn. Target store Thursday Nov. 22, 2012 for Black Friday shopping. (Dawn Villella/AP Images for Target)

Retailers are ramping up their appeals to last-minute shoppers with a few big-name stores offering extended hours for last-minute gift buyers, pushing the boundaries of normal hours and with some even staying open for more than 24 hours straight.

First it was Macy’s (M), which announced last week that for the first time it will open most of its stores in the 48 hours leading up to Christmas Eve. Most of the company’s department locations across the country will be open for two days straight, beginning on Friday, Dec. 21 at 7 a.m. and extending through Sunday, Dec. 23 at 7 a.m. for its final One Day Sale of the season. The special sale will end on Dec. 23 at 7 a.m., but many locations will then remain open until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Feeling the pressure to keep up, other retailers are expanding their own hours to draw procrastinating shoppers.

This week Toys “R” Us said it plans to keep stores open for 88 consecutive hours nationwide, from 6 a.m. on Dec. 21 until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. But as a special bonus, its Times Square location in New York City has been staying open 24 hours, 7 days a week from 7 a.m. on Dec. 2 until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve—for a total of 543 hours.

Target (TGT) said it's also extending store hours, staying open on Dec. 24 from 8 a.m. until to 9 p.m., its latest ever.

“We hope to make it easy for our customers across the country to finish their shopping at any time of day or night, and with the benefit of the great deals and value they count on from our One Day Sale events,” said Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer, in a press release.

The stores say the extending hours is something customers want, but if history is any guide, the Christmas shopping weekend may see a repeat of worker protests that cropped up last month in response to big-box retailers opening on Thanksgiving.

Target received much criticism for extending its hours to 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and opening at midnight on Black Friday. More than 300,000 people signed an online petition started by Target employee Casey St. Clair calling on the store to “Save Thanksgiving” for its employees and their families. More than 130 other petitions sprung up on Change.org asking other retailers to do the same.

Some Walmart employees protested at stores nationwide on Thanksgiving night and Black Friday, calling for better wages and benefits. A few were arrested for illegal assembly, but most of the protests went on without much disruption besides slowing down some shoppers. The protests were organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers and claimed to have engaged hundreds of Walmart employees and protestors. But Walmart released a statement that they were only aware of a few dozen protests at their stores and in fact had its best Black Friday ever.

Despite the dissent and petitions, the employees have done little to change the stores’ minds. Retailers continue to announce extended hours and offer attractive discounts, since holiday sales can make up to 40% of their annual revenue. The National Retail Federation estimates that overall sales for November and December will rise 4.1% to $586.1 billion this year.

Even though some stores are extending their hours, many major ones are still staying closed on Christmas Day and will close earlier around 5 p.m. or 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. Of those, Best Buy (BBY) has been notably resisting the move to keep stores open longer. It remained one of the few major retailers to stay closed on Thanksgiving. It opened at midnight on Black Friday, only requiring workers to come in a couple of hours earlier so that they could spend the holiday with families.