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Published November 22, 2011, 08:54 AM

Sour attitudes follow aggressive Black Friday hours

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia resident Shannon Miller won't be holiday shopping this Black Friday or the day after, so going out to run down Christmas bargains on Thanksgiving Day is flatly out of the question.

By: Roddie Burris, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Columbia resident Shannon Miller won't be holiday shopping this Black Friday or the day after, so going out to run down Christmas bargains on Thanksgiving Day is flatly out of the question.

A steep discount at Target, though, could tempt others to spend Thursday and the entire weekend battling crowds as desperate retailers open earlier than ever in an attempt to attract scarce consumer dollars.

Anxious for sales yet nervous about inventories, retailers this year have collapsed even more the separation between turkey with the family and shopping gone wild.

Miller is among a small, but growing, backlash against ever-increasing Black Friday hype.

"Retailers being open Thanksgiving Day is ridiculous," said Miller, 38, who believes people put too much emphasis on material things this time of the year. "A holiday like Thanksgiving and Christmas should be spent with family and friends. I don't do Black Friday or that entire weekend for shopping."

Major retailers such as Wal-Mart and Toys R Us this year blew through the midnight barrier to Black Friday — a Wal-Mart first — with plans to open on Thanksgiving Day at 10 p.m. and 9 p.m. respectively.

Like last year, early-bird shoppers will again be able to hit Kmart and Sears stores all day on Thanksgiving for deals such as a 32-inch LCD HDTV for $199.99.

Others such as Best Buy, Target, Macy's and Kohl's will open at midnight Black Friday — hours earlier than they have in past years.

Efforts have popped up around the country to show opposition to the pre-midnight madness:

—RespectTheBird.com has nearly 2,400 pledges to "not let Black Friday shopping gobble up my Thanksgiving."

—SaveThanksgiving.org proposes to move the holiday to October in part because "the Christmas holiday buying season no longer waits until after Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is losing its visibility."

—And Change.org has a variety of petitions — some with hundreds of supporters — opposed to stores opening on Thanksgiving.

But in a down economy where cash-strapped consumers are looking for serious bargains, experts doubt Black Friday will fade.

"This will be the biggest Black Friday in the history of America," predicted consumer expert Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group Ltd., a consumer behavior research and strategic consulting firm.

In a 1,000-person survey on holiday shopping conducted recently by the firm, more than half — 52 percent to 54 percent of respondents — said they plan to holiday shop by 6 p.m. on Black Friday, Beemer said, up from 44 percent to 46 percent last year.

Young mothers and 18- to 25-year-olds are likeliest to be drawn to the midnight openings, some retail experts predict, while the older set may opt to turn in early Thanksgiving night, then rise early Black Friday — the traditional way.

Retailers, meanwhile, know that whoever gets the first shoppers is destined to do well on Black Friday.

"Last year (when Best Buy stores opened at 5 a.m. on Black Friday), some of our employees felt frustrated," said Chris Carey, general manager at a Columbia Best Buy. "Our competitors were opening earlier and they said, 'We're losing out.' "

Columbiana Centre, a Columbia mall, tested out midnight openings on Black Friday last year with two dozen of its stores participating. This year, 45 stores plan to open at midnight, said senior general manager Tom Dornfeld.

"That's a good sign it was a success," he said.

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(c)2011 The State (Columbia, S.C.)

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