Last years black Friday success sets the tone for this year

The strength of last year’s Black Friday appears to be compelling large retailers to try to further their success by opening even earlier this year.

Retail behemoth Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) is jumping the Black Friday gun by starting its sales a day earlier, moving some of its deals to late Thanksgiving night.

The retailers are scrambling to gain an edge on the heavy sales period, which was especially successful last year. The average shopper during Black Friday weekend spent $365.34 last year, up from $343.31 in 2009, the National Retail Federation said. Total spending reached an estimated $45 billion.

“Last Black Friday was an extremely strong one, setting the tone for expectations this year and potentially helping retailers decide on earlier openings,” said Matt Arnold, retail analyst at Edward Jones.

Kohl’s Corp. (KSS) is among the retailers that have opted for a midnight opening, feeling it is something customers want. “It’s almost more intrusive to say to a customer, ‘Enjoy your Thanksgiving, but you have to be up at 3 a.m.,'” Chief Executive Kevin Mansell told Dow Jones Newswires.

Midnight is more like a continuation of the day, Mansell said.

Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) is being a bit retro, dispensing with its namesake stores being open on Thanksgiving in favor or a more traditional early morning opening on Black Friday.

Sears stores last year, for the first time, were open from 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving in a bid to get an early jump on holiday shoppers. But Sears found many customers that shopped that day did so on its Website online. Sears decided to open from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Black Friday, eschewing this year’s trend of midnight openings by retailers. But while the namesake stores aren’t opening on Thanksgiving, Sears’ Kmart stores will be open that day, into their second decade of taking the approach.

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