Black Friday is again starting on a Thursday.
Many stores opened last year as families were finishing their Thanksgiving dinners. Locally, some shoppers ate their turkey and pie while standing in line to snag the deepest discounts.
When Macy's announced Tuesday that it would open its doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, the department store landed itself among a number of retailers willing to buck tradition and offer early hours.
The news drew a mixed reaction from local shoppers.
As Missy Brackenridge walked through Macy's in the West Manchester Mall on Tuesday afternoon, it looked as though the store was ready for the season. Stacked red presents, garland and ornaments adorned retail displays, and seeing those decorations was "a little too soon" for the 28-year-old Dover mom.
"It's not even Halloween yet," she said.
Brackenridge is a lifelong Black Friday shopper and said she misses when the doorbusters were saved for Friday mornings.
"Now there are a bunch a big sales at different times - Thanksgiving Day, midnight, Friday morning, Friday afternoon, Saturday morning. I don't think 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day is too early, but I wish they would pick one day or the other."
Another perspective But 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day is too early for 67-year-old York Township resident Janis Pichtel.
"When 8 p.m. rolls around on Thanksgiving, I'm drained. The last thing I want to do is go to a store," she said.
In a news release shared Tuesday morning, Macy's executives said the 8 p.m. start time on Thanksgiving Day will enable shoppers to find deals "after families across the country have finished their holiday meals and celebrations."
Two shoppers said the time didn't matter to them.
"It doesn't matter to me. I won't be going anyway. Can't stand the crowds," said J.P. Hill, 64, Manchester Township.
For Nicole Buchar, there's no time too early.
"I do all my shopping on Black Friday. That's when there's the best deals, and I have two kids and seven nieces and nephews to buy for. I'll go whenever they open, even if I have to eat my dinner in the parking lot," said the 35-year-old West York resident.
Buchar left in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner last year for the sales and visited with family on Friday.
"We were out a long time on Thanksgiving night, but we rested on Friday mostly. You roll with the changes. It was actually a lot of fun," she said.
Last year: Last year, Kmart, Sears, Toys R Us and Walmart opened at 8 p.m., and Target opened at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.
For two decades Kmart opened Thanksgiving morning, but it was the retailer's first time opening that evening.
Though the earlier-than-ever hours drew some criticism from consumers who thought the sales cut into holiday and family time, the bet paid off for the retailers.
Black Friday sales hit record highs in 2012, according to the National Retail Federation.
Retailers raked in $59.1 billion in sales, compared to $52.4 billion spent in 2011, the trade organization reported.
How many stores will compete for a piece of the economic pie and follow Macy's lead this year is unclear. Many retailers said Tuesday that they have not announced Black Friday hours and don't intend to until early November.
Expect early openings: But nearly every retail analyst agrees the stores will open early this year. When they opened at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day last year, that was two hours earlier than the 10 p.m. opening time Toys R Us and Walmart set two years ago. Many analysts believe that trend will continue, and 6 p.m. opening times may be possible.
How effective the early start times are this year largely depends on the economy and federal government, according to the National Retail Federation.
The organization predicts a modest 3.9 percent gain in sales this year.
"Our forecast is a realistic look at where we are right now in this economy - balancing continued uncertainty in Washington and an economy that has been teetering on incremental growth for years," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.
Retailers are optimistic for the holiday shopping season, but they hope political disputes are resolved so consumer confidence doesn't tank, economists said.
"In order for consumers to turn out this holiday season, we need to see steady improvements in income and job growth, as well as an agreement from Washington that puts the economic recovery first. Our forecast leaves room for improvement, while at the same time provides a very realistic look at the state of the American consumer and their confidence in our economy," said NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz.
- Reach Candy Woodall at email@example.com.