Opening day

More stores and shopping centers than ever will open for business Thursday and stay open later this weekend to draw holiday traffic.

The exception is Walmart, which is open 24 hours, but its Thanksgiving Day deals don’t start until 6 p.m.

Here’s a rundown of the opening times for some popular Charleston-area retailers on Thursday. For closings and locations not listed, call the stores or visit their websites.

6 a.m. Kmart

7 a.m. Big Lots; Dollar General

8 a.m. Dollar Tree; Family Dollar

4 p.m. Michaels

5 p.m. Toys R Us (8 p.m. for the Citadel Mall store)

6 p.m. Best Buy

8 p.m. American Eagle; Anna’s Linens; Banana Republic (10 p.m. at Tanger Outlet); Belk; Dicks’s Sporting Goods; Gap (10 p.m. at Tanger); HHGregg; JC Penney; Kohl’s; Old Navy (10 p.m. at Tanger); Palmetto Moon (9 p.m. at Mt. Pleasant Towne Centre and Azalea Square); Sears; Staples; Target; Ulta.

For a more detailed list of stores’ special hours this weekend, visit http://blog.postandcourier.com/retail-report/

Thanksgiving has always centered on consumption, but it’s taken on a different meaning in recent years as Black Friday creeps further into the family-oriented festivities.

Shopping tips

Understand payment terms and penalties before signing up for layaway. Walmart and Toys R Us are waiving layaway fees during the holidays.

Make a budget; stick to it.

Keep receipts and get copies of stores’ return policies.

Beware of purchasing extra service warranties or insurance contracts. Some expensive devices may already be covered under manufacturers’ warranties.

Stores open all night on Thanksgiving through Black Friday will offer deals on certain items at certain times. Visit store websites to time your visits accordingly.

S.C. Department of Consumer Affairs; Bloomberg

The number of retail stores opening on the holiday has jumped dramatically this year, and many are opening as early as 6 a.m. on the holiday.

While some people welcome the extended hours and beefed-up deals, others say retailers are taking away from the holiday’s purpose.

Black Friday has long been the retail industry’s version of the Super Bowl. But analysts say a strong performance is even more critical to executives this year, which could explain why more stores are extending their Black Friday hours.

“Retailers are experiencing a very lousy retail year across the board, and I think they’re trying to figure out anything they can possibly do to keep their sales up,” said Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of Summerville-based America’s Research Group.

While forecasts from the National Retail Federation say holiday sales will grow 3.9 percent this year, retailers will have to work extra hard for their profits. They’re dealing with a shorter shopping season and fewer people who plan to participate in the all-important holiday kick-off weekend.

The span between Thanksgiving and Christmas generates up to 40 percent of a retailer’s annual business. But with Thanksgiving falling later in November this year — the latest it’s been since 2002 — retailers have less time to meet their financial goals.

The National Retail Federation estimates that 140 million people will shop this weekend, a slight decline from 147 million who planned to shop Black Friday sales last year.

But the trade group also said about 33 million shoppers planned to hit the stores on Thanksgiving. It’s the first time it has projected that figure.

Even if executives of major stores wanted to stay closed on the holiday, Beemer said taking the moral high ground wouldn’t be worth it.

“I don’t think retailers can afford to give up that much traffic,” he said.

Stores that have never opened on the holiday are falling in line with retail giants such as Walmart and Target, which have been starting their Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving for several years.

Kohl’s, for example, will open during the holiday for the first time this year. The deals start at 8 p.m., and the store will remain open for 28 straight hours until midnight Saturday.

Opening salvos

Critics of the early openings say its unfair to stores’ employees, and that it threatens to diminish the holiday’s meaning. About 10 shoppers in the Target store in Mount Pleasant on Monday said they wouldn’t shop on Thanksgiving, and many said they were morally opposed to it.

“The way I see it, people in retail deserve to spend Thanksgiving with their families like anybody else. The holidays are really about family, it shouldn’t be about shopping or getting good deals,” said Michele Ross of Mount Pleasant.

Ross is far from alone in that viewpoint.

About 60 petitions calling for stores to remain closed on Thanksgiving have been posted to the petition site Change.org. They have garnered a collective 188,000 signatures, according to the Huffington Post.

Executives of stores opening on Thanksgiving have said they are responding to consumer demand.

Best Buy will open earlier than ever this year at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, and executives said in a release that, “millions of people made it clear that they wanted to shop on Thanksgiving evening.”

Best Buy went on to say its employees are working the holiday to help out the company’s performance.

“Much of the internal feedback we have gotten so far reflects our collective desire to serve customers and have a successful holiday,” the release said.

Beemer said workers may have a different motivation to work.

“Employees hate it, they tell us. But most employees need the money to afford gifts for their own families, so they’re willing to do it,” he said.

Most locally owned stores will be closed on the holiday. One exception is Palmetto Moon. Its four locations will open at 9 p.m. and will remain open until 10 p.m. Friday. President Eric Holzer said he understands that it’s lot to ask employees to work Thanksgiving night.

“We also know that our customers are the most important thing, and if our customers are out shopping at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, we’re going to do what’s best to serve our customers,” he said.

Local majority

Other Lowcountry merchants will be offering doorbusters early Friday morning.

M. Dumas & Sons at 294 King St. will open at 5 a.m. Friday to offer special deals to early birds. Jordan Lash, a store manager, said it’s not likely the men’s apparel shop will open much earlier than that in the future.

“What are we going to do, make our employees stay here all night long?” he said. “We like to let our employees have a life.”

Penny Vaigneur, owner of Copper Penny and Copper Penny Shooz, agreed.

“I really wouldn’t want to interfere with my employees’ family day,” she said.

The Copper Penny stores on Coleman Boulevard, Mount Pleasant Towne Centre and King Street will open at 8 a.m. Friday, two hours earlier than usual. Gwynn’s of Mount Pleasant will offer sales throughout the weekend, but owner Marshall Simon said they wouldn’t be opening any earlier than usual.

“We’re not the kind of store that opening at midnight would drive our customer,” he said. “To take the employees from their families on Thursday doesn’t seem right, and to get families shopping that night just to get better prices, it’s not right.”

Ashley Magrath said that while she understands it might not be ideal for employees to work on the holiday, she doesn’t think early store openings threatens the meaning of Thanksgiving.

“I definitely don’t think it cuts into family time, at least not for my family,” she said.

Magrath usually stands in line on Thanksgiving night with her brothers and sisters to get doorbuster deals on Christmas gifts for their family.

This year they’ll head to Wal-Mart at about 6 p.m. to look for a new car seat and toys for her sons. Then, she and her sister will make their way to Belk in Mount Pleasant Towne Centre, where she said shoppers can score gift cards and other promotions.

“Different families like to do different things for fun on Thanksgiving,” she said. “I think its nice to go shopping with my sister or my mom, it’s a good way to spend time together.”

Reach Abigail Darlington at 937-5906 and follow her on Twitter @A_Big_Gail