Move Over Thanksgiving, it’s Time for Black Thursday Sales

There’s sure to be extra leftover turkey this Thanksgiving, not to mention some untouched pumpkin pies. More retailers are bumping up the starts of their Black Friday specials to as early as 8 p.m. Thursday, to the chagrin of many employees and holiday traditionalists. Just last week, more than 20 petitions were added on calling for retailers to push Black Friday sales back to Friday so workers could spend Thanksgiving at home with family. Wal-Mart employees are also rumored to be planning a Black Friday protest.

“It’s ridiculous,” Anthony Hardwick, a former Target employee who led a similar protest last year, told the Washington Post. “We’re getting rid of Thanksgiving dinner, and for what? For a $300 flat-screen TV?”

One petition in particular, originated by Target employee Casey St. Clair, already has more than 170,000 electronic signatures. In the appeal, St. Clair asks Target—which has announced a 9 p.m. Thursday evening opening—to “give Thanksgiving back to familiars and not open Thanksgiving evening.”

Although Black Friday sales have trended earlier and earlier for the past several years, 2011 marked a substantial change when retailers started sales on Thursday night as opposed to the wee hours of Friday morning. After finding success in the strategy, they are starting even earlier this year. Wal-Mart, Toys R Us and Sears have all announced Black Friday specials beginning at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, while Target will open its doors Thursday at 9 p.m.—a full three hours earlier than last year. Retailers—which can earn as much as 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season—may be trying to attract bargain hunters before their rivals do.

“The retail environment is always competitive—and most especially during the holiday season,” Troy Rice, executive vice president of stores and services at Toys R Us, told Reuters.

Other retailers say turning Black Friday into Black Thursday is simply a response to consumer demand. Shoppers simply don’t want to wake up before dawn to wait in line anymore. According to the National Retail Federation, almost one-fourth of consumers who shopped during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend were at stores at midnight on Black Friday—a 3-percent increase over 2009.

“There’s a segment of the population who wants to drop their drumstick and immediately pick up a door-buster,” Brian Hanover, a spokesman for Sears, told the Post. “Our customers keep telling us they want more flexible Black Friday shopping hours.”