Shoppers eager to get up early and nab the best Black Friday specials can plan a late-night trip to the mall this year.
With Macy's recent announcement that it will open its stores at midnight on Thanksgiving night, rather than Friday morning, many mall specialty stores are planning to open at the same time.
At The Parks at Arlington, 51 retailers and seven kiosks -- about a third of the mall's lineup -- have told the mall management that they intend to open at midnight, the mall's marketing director Debi Martinez said. And at Hulen Mall in Fort Worth, which is also owned by General Growth Properties, 23 specialty retailers have announced midnight openings, Martinez said.
Those still hungry or thirsty after Thanksgiving dinner can treat themselves to Tater Tots at Sonic, lattes at Starbucks and cranberry concoctions at Smoothie King, all of which will open at midnight at The Parks, Martinez said.
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When a handful of specialty retailers opened at midnight at the mall last year, Martinez said, she thought they might be merely drawing in sales that would have happened anyway later in the day.
"But from the feedback we get from retailers, that's not the case," she said. "They feel it's effective enough that they want to repeat."
She said she expects more specialty retailers to say they want to open with Macy's as well. Last year, Macy's opened at 4 a.m. For a list of retailers opening at midnight Black Friday at The Parks and Hulen Mall, click here.
At North East Mall in Hurst, marketing manager Holly Conner said fewer than 10 specialty retailers have told the mall they plan to open with Macy's. But she expects to hear from more of the mall's specialty stores, which number about 150.
As retailers open earlier and earlier for Black Friday sales -- some now plan to open as early as 9 p.m. Thursday -- a debate has emerged over the effectiveness of the strategy and whether it's fair to employees. A Target employee has gone so far as to launch a petition titled "Tell Target To Save Thanksgiving" at the site www.change.org. The petition had more than 111,000 signatures Wednesday afternoon.
Anthony Hardwick, who works part time at a Target store in Omaha, Neb., started the petition.
"The folks that work at Target are going to be working all night overnight on one of the most hectic retail days of the holidays," Hardwick told The Associated Press. "They need to be well-rested for that, so they have to miss out on Thanksgiving if they're going to be working overnight."
An estimated 3.3 percent of shoppers hit the stores at midnight in 2009 and 9 percent in 2010, according to the National Retail Federation.
The crowd most likely to shop at midnight Thanksgiving is the 18-24 group, Ellen Davis, National Retail Federation vice president, told reporters during a conference call this week hosted by the Society of American Business Editors and Writers.
That age group is twice as likely as any other to hit the stores at midnight, she said.
What shoppers do after their midnight runs isn't clear. Do they keep on shopping, go home, take naps, and come back later in the day, or just go home and not return?
"They map it out," Martinez said. "They get online. They go to Target [at midnight], they go to Walmart, they know these stores are going to be open in the malls. Then they'll be lined up for the 6 a.m. openings."
This year, Walmart stores have announced a series of staggered Black Friday specials available as early as 10 p.m. Thanksgiving, and running into Friday morning.
Stores such as Target, Kohl's, and Best Buy open at midnight. Mall anchors J.C. Penney and Sears open at 4 a.m.; Sears last year opened on Thanskgiving night at 9 but changed its plan this year. Dick's Sporting Goods, another mall anchor, opens at 5 a.m.
Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808