With just about two weeks left before Thanksgiving, the countdown is officially on for Black Friday shopping promotions.
The nation's biggest retailers are still betting that Americans want to shop on Thanksgiving Day, with stores opening as early as 5 p.m. on the national holiday, despite modest predictions for growth. Most stores will stay open through the night and all day Friday.
"Black Friday continues to kick off the holiday shopping season for many guests," said Tina Tyler, chief stores officer with Target. She added that "millions of families make Black Friday in-store shopping part of their tradition."
There definitely are the super fans of Black Friday. One man in Orlando started camping out in front of Best Buy a month before Thanksgiving this year.
But it seems the creep has stalled, at least somewhat this year. Many stores are opening the same time they did last year, not earlier, as was the trend in previous years.
Toys "R" Us stores will open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, making it one of the earliest to open for a second year in a row. Stores will remain open through 11 p.m. on Friday. Best Buy will also open at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving again.
"Each year, we carefully evaluate customer feedback and consumer insights to determine how we can best help those customers eager to get a jump start on crossing off items on their gift lists," said Joe Venezia, senior vice President of store operations with Toys "R" Us in the U.S.
Target will open stores at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving, just like last year. Target's top promotion this year is called "10 Days of Deals" where Target stores will try to entice shoppers to come back every day for daily discounts on electronics, kitchenware, toys and more from Nov. 22 through Dec.1. Shoppers will also have access to a Black Friday pre-sale event on Wednesday, Nov. 25.
Macy's stores will also open at 6 p.m., also the same time stores opened last year. The big promotion this year is "Macy's Black Friday Walk In and Win" game, where shoppers check in on the Macy's mobile app when they walk into their local store for a chance to win $1 million in prizes.
Walmart hasn't announced its hours yet, but the retail giant's stores opened at 6 p.m. last year. At Walmart, shoppers can pick up orders through a new mobile check-in app. Customers check in using their phone when they arrive to pick up an online order, which is a free service at all Walmart stores, including neighborhood market stores. Shoppers can also scan items in Walmart stores this season to create a wish list or search for other's lists on the Walmart app.
Some retailers, like Target and Best Buy, are making all of their Black Friday deals available online this year, for those who don't want to brave the stores on Thanksgiving.
The National Retail Federation predicts that retail sales in November and December will grow by just 3.7 percent, or to $630.5 billion nationally, this year. Holiday season shopping makes up 19 percent of all annual retail related sales for the year.
Significant reductions in gas prices, new job growth and an improving housing market all point to a more robust shopping season this year for consumers, but analyst Howard Davidowitz thinks shopping will still be down compared to last year.
"There are certain segments of retail that is good, like the athletiwear lines and home improvement stores, but retail sales generally speaking are not good," said Davidowitz, the chairman of Davidowitz & Associates, a national retail consulting and investment banking firm in New York City. "People are spending more on experiences, that's why the restaurant industry is doing well."
Because Black Friday deals are focused on value prices, they don't rake in much money for the actual retailers. Doorbuster deals have always been a way to get people in the stores, with the hopes that they'll buy other items while they're there. But that isn't happening as much as it used to.
"Every year they all do the same thing. They open earlier, we see the lines on TV. If you're a department store chain, you can't not do it for fear of losing marketshare," Davidowitz said. "The bottom line is everyone is doing less now, and they're going to continue to do less."
Publix delivery service Shipt expanding to Plant City and Spring Hill
Shipt, a mobile app-based grocery delivery service, is expanding into Plant City and Spring Hill on Nov. 17.
The company launched its service, where it takes orders for groceries from Publix and delivers them to customers' doors, in Tampa Bay three months ago.
Thousands of people have signed up. Customers virtually browse the aisles of a Publix grocery store and pay via the Shipt app or on the company's website. Most Publix items are available for delivery, right down to the exact cut of meat from the deli to the specific preferred brand of frozen organic fruit.
Shipt, which is based in Birmingham, Ala., is expanding aggressively in Florida. Within two months, they've begun offering Publix delivery services in Tampa Bay, Orlando and Miami. In October they launched in Sarasota and Jacksonville. Next they'll launch in Fort Myers and Naples. Shipt only delivers groceries from Publix stores, but the companies are not affiliated in any way.
T.J. Maxx opening in Tampa
Discount retailer T.J. Maxx is opening a new store in Tampa on Nov. 15.
The chain store sells apparel, jewelry, home decor, beauty items, pet products and more at value prices. The 26,250-square-foot store, located at 3718 Henderson Blvd. in Tampa, will open at 8 a.m. Sunday. The first 1,000 shoppers at the store will receive a free reusable bag. Regular store hours are 9:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Boca Kitchen Bar Market to hire 120 for Brandon restaurant
Boca Kitchen Bar Market is hosting a job fair this weekend to hire 120 people to work at its new restaurant in Brandon. The new restaurant is scheduled to open in December at the Winthrop Town Center complex at the southeast corner of Providence Road and Bloomingdale Avenue. Boca is a restaurant group that started on Platt Street in Tampa and specializes in offering "farm to table" fresh ingredients. The restaurant group will hire for management, kitchen staff, diswashers, servers, bartenders and hosts. The job fair is Friday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 11206 Sullivan St., in Riverview. Resumes can be submitted by email in advance to [email protected]
Contact Justine Griffin at [email protected] or (727) 893-8467. Follow @SunBizGriffin.