Several Western Pa. malls to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving

| Thursday, Nov. 14, 2013, 10:18 a.m.

Bargain hunters can get a jump on Black Friday shopping this year by hitting the malls on Thanksgiving evening.

Several malls in the Pittsburgh region and across the country are joining a growing trend, kicking off the holiday shopping season earlier — at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving before some people have finished celebrating the holiday.

The decision to open on Thanksgiving — earlier than the traditional midnight start to Black Friday shopping — will provide jittery retailers a wider window to make money but has spurred some criticism.

“We're in a hyper-competitive retail environment,” Renato Scaff, managing director of the retail practice for Accenture, a global management consulting firm. “No retailer wants to be sitting after the holiday with excess inventory they have to write down.”

Area malls opening early include South Hills Village, the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills, Ross Park Mall and Monroeville Mall. They join malls such as Mall of America, the giant complex of 520 stores in Bloomington, Minn., that are providing four early hours of shopping.

“Years ago, when we went to a midnight opening, we didn't think it would work. And then we saw the crowds show up,” said Jerry Crites, general manager of Pittsburgh Mills in Frazer, a retail complex that includes the Galleria at Pittsburgh Mills.

The mall will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, four hours earlier than last year. Crites said about half the roughly 160 stores there will open at 8 p.m., while the other half will stick with midnight openings.

The industry calls the day after Thanksgiving “Black Friday” because it kicks off the holiday shopping season, whose revenue volume often determines whether a retailer will be profitable, or “in the black,” for the year. Because Thanksgiving falls late this year, there are six fewer holiday shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

The holiday season generally accounts for between 20 percent and 40 percent of a retailers' annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.

The trade group projects November-December holiday retail sales will increase 3.9 percent this year to $602 billion. That compares with a 3.5 percent rise in 2012 and a 10-year average annual increase of 3.3 percent.

More shoppers plan to hit the stores this Black Friday than in previous years. According to a survey by Accenture, 55 percent of consumers said they will shop on Black Friday. That's an increase from 53 percent last year, and well up from 44 percent in 2011.

“As retailers open earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving, people presumably will hit a point where they say, ‘That's too early. It will encroach on my Thanksgiving family activities,' ” Scaff said. “But so far, we haven't seen that.”

Several big, national chains plan to open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving. The roster includes JC Penney, Kohl's, Target, Macy's, OfficeMax and others. Toys “R” Us will open at 5 p.m. At the extreme end, Kmart plans to open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving and remain open for 41 hours.

“Every retailer is just trying to grab a little advantage by opening earlier. If they compound that with promotions, then sales will be strong,” said Bill Bishop, co-founder of Brick Meets Click, a retail research firm in Barrington, Ill.

Not all major retailers are opening earlier this year. Nordstrom, Costco and BJ's Wholesale Club decided to remain closed on the holiday.

The Mall at Robinson will leave its opening at midnight in line with its tenants' wishes, said marketing director Shema Krinsky.

“We got a mixed response. Some wanted us to open at 8 p.m., but most wanted to stick to tradition,” Krinsky said.

Another bucking the early-opening trend is SAS Shoes. Its store at Tanger Outlet Center is one of the few at the Washington, Pa., complex not opening when Tanger opens at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving, said Jodi Dague, the center's general manager. SAS Shoes will open 9 a.m. the next day. Store officials could not be reached.

Tanger Outlet, which has about 80 stores, moved its Black Friday opening to 10 p.m. in 2011 from midnight previous years and “saw huge crowds” turn out, Dague said. Mall managers decided earlier this year to leave this year's opening at 10 p.m.

Ross Park Mall, which has about 150 stores, will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, versus midnight last year, as none of its 150 stores objected to opening early, mall manager Lisa Earl said.

“There's so many different shopping options in this day and age,” Earl said. “The more opportunities we can give customers, the better they are served, and the better off we are as mall operators and retailers.”

Thomas Olson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached a 412-320-7854 or at

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