More retailers open on holiday

Midlands shoppers can walk off their turkey dinners and sleep in on Black Friday this Thanksgiving holiday.

Old Navy, Dollar Tree and Michael's are among a growing number of retailers in the Midlands that will keep their doors open Thanksgiving Day.

As the nation slowly recovers from a two-year recession, retailers are looking for new ways to lure jittery consumers by offering special sales on turkey day itself.

"The retailers are pretty desperate," said Britt Beemer, chairman of Charleston-based America's Research Group. "They're trying to maximize every day they can."

Retail sales are predicted to drop 1 percent to $437.6 billion this year from last year, according to the National Retail Federation. Consumers this year are expected to spend an average of $682.74 on the holidays, a 3.2 percent decline from last year's average of $705, the group said.

At the Old Navy stores in the Village at Sandhill in Northeast Richland and on Harbison Boulevard, the doors will be open between noon and 7 p.m.

Meanwhile, Michael's will be open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. and Dollar Tree will operate from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Some restaurants also will get into the game, offering an alternative to the home-cooked meal.

Sharon May, who owns Hennessy's on Main Street, will have turkey on the menu, alongside crab cakes, pork chops and stuffed flounder.

May has been in business 26 years and has never opened on Thanksgiving even though demand was there.

"We always have had so many calls from people wanting to know if we were opening on Thanksgiving," she said.

In a rough economy that has sapped business from her restaurant, she is hoping to capitalize on that demand now, serving lunch and dinner from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m.

She already has booked some reservations but has more spots open.

Retailers are facing consumers who are only a bit less gloomy than they were a year ago as they worry about a weak job market. South Carolina has the fifth-highest unemployment rate in the nation.

The Conference Board reported Tuesday that shoppers' confidence improved only slightly in November, from October, but it is stuck far below what could be considered healthy and is about half of the historic average.

Big Lots, Kmart, Dollar General and various drug stores are among those that typically are open on the holiday.

Betty Davis, manager of Big Lots on Two Notch Road, is expecting big crowds Thanksgiving Day.

"They'll be coming out to get bargains," she said.

Davis said the afternoons are usually the busiest. After people have enjoyed their Thanksgiving dinners, they come out to get a jump on Christmas shopping.

Opening on Thanksgiving could be a trend that is here to stay, said Marianne Bickle, chairwoman of the USC retailing department.

"Fifteen years ago or more, people didn't shop on Sundays," she said. "We never used to have 24-hour shopping periods."

Now, many stores are open on Sundays, holidays and all night.

"Retailers are trying to encourage new consumers," Bickle said, "trying to instill loyalty."

She said shoppers who venture out on Thanksgiving are likely to have a more relaxed shopping experience than those working the Black Friday crowds. And they will have a larger selection and likely won't have as many returns, she said.

"You have a calmer shopping environment."