Time to gobble up savings

JC Penney at Citadel Mall is one of many stores that will open early for Black Friday. The retailer will start welcoming shoppers at 4 a.m.

Wade Spees

Retailers continue to nibble away at the day of giving thanks.

Stores are opening earlier to get a jump on the competition and squeeze out profits during the all-important holiday shopping season, which traditionally has started on Friday.

But with the economy still limping along and a projection that consumers will spend less this holiday season, some merchants want their doors to be open first when budget-conscious shoppers pull out their still-thin wallets.

They are opening way before dawn on Friday, earlier than last year, and some are not waiting for the turkey dinner to be digested or cooked at all.

Old Navy will sail full-steam ahead into the holiday shopping season at 9 a.m. today. Michael's craft stores will tack on two hours more than last year and be ready to sell from 4 to 10 p.m. today. And Toys R Us kicks off its shopping fun an hour earlier than last year at 9 tonight.

Target will unlock its doors at midnight for the first time, and not to be outdone, retail juggernaut Walmart, which is open around the clock, will roll out its sales specials at 10 p.m. today on certain items.

Tanger Outlet Center in North Charleston flings open its doors two hours earlier than last year, at 10 tonight. Charlotte-based Belk department stores kick off their shopping season an hour earlier than last year at 3 a.m., and Northwoods and Citadel malls will welcome shoppers at 4 a.m., two hours earlier than last year, though some of the non-anchor merchants will open at midnight.

"Black Friday is backing into Thanksgiving," said Karen Edwards, senior instructor at the University of South Carolina's College of Hospitality, Retailing and Sports Management.

"Whereas in the past, not many opened on Thanksgiving, this year we are seeing more and more," she said. "Everybody is stepping back a bit to try to seize some additional retail dollars."

Even Cyber Monday, when merchants offer special deals online, is nudging forward to Black Friday as retailers offer mobile-only deals to try to poach customers from brick-and-mortar stores.

"They know that some customers will be shopping online while waiting in line," Edwards said of customers using smart phones to shop.

The early openings haven't made everybody happy.

For the first year, there has been a grass-roots movement led by a part-time Target employee against the Minneapolis-based retailer's earlier-than-ever opening. A similar "Save Thanksgiving" petition was launched by a Best Buy worker against the store's midnight opening. The Target worker's petition drew nearly 200,000 signatures by Wednesday. Both stores still plan to open at midnight.

Retailers, desperate for consumers' holiday cash, know the stakes. The National Retail Federation said sales may rise just 2.8 percent this holiday season, or about half as much as last year.

"Just when you think the U.S. economy is turning around, another factor comes into play that changes the game," said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. "Persistently high unemployment, an erratic stock market, modest income growth and rising consumer prices are all combining to impact spending this holiday season. ... The good news for retailers is that shoppers have not yet thrown in the towel."

Retail sales have grown for 14 consecutive months, and the National Retail Federation predicts 152 million people will shop this weekend, 14 million more than last year, and holiday sales will total $465.6 billion.

Among those early shoppers will be Tanya Kelly of Goose Creek.

She's done her research and has a game plan.

"I am an after-Thanksgiving shopper," she said. "I will be at Walmart at midnight to buy two TVs, unless I find a better price on them from hhgregg before then."

She also plans to pick up a few items at a couple of the discount dollar stores today and likes that stores are opening earlier.

"I don't like the idea of people sitting outside the store waiting for it to open," she said. "Just go ahead and open and let the people shop."

She's set a limit of about $1,000 to spend on her husband and five children. "If you budget, it doesn't have to be a costly Christmas," she said.

But not everyone is all gung-ho about braving the crowds or the early openings.

"I will stay away from the stores on Friday," Hillary Desaussure of Summerville said. "It's too crowded. I will shop as close to Christmas as possible."

She spent about $500 last year, but plans to spend a little more on gifts this holiday season.

As for stores opening earlier than ever, she said, "Thanksgiving Day should be reserved for family. I'm sure some are ready to get out there and shop, but others really value that time and stores shouldn't interfere with that family time."

Stores and shopping centers that typically draw big crowds on Black Friday will open at different hours, some as early as Thanksgiving Day. Hours for some chain stores vary. For stores not listed, call them or check their websites.

Thanksgiving Day

Big Lots: 7 a.m.-8 p.m.

Dollar General: 7 a.m.-6 p.m.

Dollar Tree: 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Dress Barn: 10 p.m. Thursday to 9:30 p.m. Friday (Tanger store only)

Family Dollar: 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Kmart: 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

Michael's: 4-10 p.m.

Old Navy: 10 p.m. Thursday to 11 p.m. Friday, Tanger; 9 a.m.-8 p.m. Mount Pleasant and Rivers Avenue

Tanger Outlet Center: 10 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Friday (unless otherwise listed)

Toys R Us: 9 p.m. Thursday-10 p.m. Friday

Walmart: Open 24 hours, sales specials start at 10 p.m. on toys, home accessories and apparel.

Black Friday

American Eagle: Midnight-10 p.m., malls; 4:15 a.m.-9 p.m., Mount Pleasant

Apple Store: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Barnes & Noble: 7 a.m.-11 p.m.; Mount Pleasant store, 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Bed, Bath & Beyond: 5 a.m.-9 p.m.; Mount Pleasant store, 5 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Belk: 3 a.m.-10 p.m.

Berlin's: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Best Buy: midnight-10 p.m.

Big Lots: 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

Bob Ellis Shoes: 9:15 a.m.-6 p.m.

Brookstone: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Citadel and Northwoods malls: 4 a.m.-10 p.m. (Individual store hours vary. Several non-anchor merchants open at midnight.)

Dick's Sporting Goods: 4:30 a.m.-11 p.m.

Dillard's: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dress Barn: 10 p.m. Thursday to 9:30 p.m. Friday, Tanger; 9 a.m.-9 p.m., Summerville

Dollar General: 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dollar Tree: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Family Dollar: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Forever 21: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

HHGregg: midnight-10 p.m.

Home Depot: 5 a.m.-9 p.m.

JC Penney: 4 a.m.-11 p.m.

Kmart: 5 a.m.-11 p.m.

Kohl's: midnight-midnight

Lacoste: 10 a.m.-7 p.m.

Louis Vuitton: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Lowe's: 5 a.m.-10 p.m.

M. Dumas & Sons: 6 a.m.-8 p.m.

Michael's: 5 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Morris Sokol Furniture: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Mount Pleasant Towne Centre: 8 a.m.-9 p.m. for stores not otherwise listed.

Old Navy: 10 p.m. Thursday to 11 p.m. Friday, Tanger; midnight-11 p.m. Mount Pleasant and Rivers Avenue.

Sears: 4 a.m.-9 p.m.

Tanger Outlet Center: 10 p.m. Thursday to 9 p.m. Friday (most stores)

Target: Midnight-11 p.m.

Toys R Us: 9 p.m. Thursday-10 p.m. Friday

Ulta: 6 a.m.-10 p.m., Mount Pleasant; midnight-10 p.m., Summerville

Walmart: Open 24 hours, sales specials on electronics start at midnight

Williams-Sonoma: 8 a.m.-8 p.m.

World Market: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

Saturday

American Eagle: 10 a.m.-9 p.m., malls; 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Mount Pleasant

Apple: 9 a.m.-9 p.m.

Barnes & Noble: 9 a.m.-11 p.m.

Bed, Bath & Beyond: 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Mount Pleasant, 9:30 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Belk: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Berlin's: 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Best Buy: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Big Lots: 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Bob Ellis Shoes: 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Brookstone: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Citadel and Northwoods malls: 8 a.m.-10 p.m. (Individual store hours vary.)

Dillard's: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dick's Sporting Goods: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Dollar General: 8 a.m.-9 p.m.

Dollar Tree: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Dress Barn: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Family Dollar: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Forever 21: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

HHGregg: 9 a.m.-10 p.m.

Home Depot: 6 a.m.-9 p.m.

JC Penney: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Kmart: 6 a.m.-11 p.m.

Kohl's: 6 a.m.-midnight

Lacoste: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Louis Vuitton: 10 a.m.-8 p.m.

Lowe's: 6 a.m.-10 p.m.

M. Dumas & Sons: 9 a.m.-7 p.m.

Michael's: 8 a.m.-9:30 p.m.

Morris Sokol Furniture: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.

Old Navy: 10 p.m.-9 p.m., Tanger; 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Mount Pleasant; 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Rivers Avenue.

Sears: 7 a.m.-10 p.m.

Tanger Outlet Center: 10 a.m.-9 p.m.

Target: 8 a.m.-11 p.m.

Toys R Us: 7 a.m.-11 p.m.

Ulta: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Walmart: Open 24 hours

Williams-Sonoma: 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

World Market: 8 a.m.-10 p.m.

Compiled by Warren L. Wise

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.