More Marketers Invite Themselves to Thanksgiving Dinner

Lured by Aggressive Retailers, Consumers are Increasingly Shopping on Turkey Day

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Drumstick, cranberry sauce, coupon?

Consumers will be served a heaping helping of shopping opportunities with their turkey this Thanksgiving, once a day reserved for family, food and football. More bricks-and-mortar stores than ever are expected to be open for business on Thanksgiving, and email-marketing firm Responsys said 80% of major retailers will send messages on the holiday this year, up from just 45% in 2009.

"Prior to 2010 this was a family day -- everything was closed," said Chad White, research director at Responsys. "But what retailers discovered after biting the bullet was there is a lot of demand for shopping on Thanksgiving Day."

Mr. White even predicted that online sales on Thanksgiving Day could surpass those of Black Friday in the next three years. According to ComScore, online sales jumped 18% on Thanksgiving Day to $479 million, while online sales were up 26% to $816 million on Black Friday.

"Lots of retailers release Black Friday sales early, and you'll start to see some Thanksgiving Day-only sales," he said. "The other wild card is mobile. It's super-boosting sales on Thanksgiving."

According to a survey by coupon site RetailMeNot.com, its customers reported saving more on Thanksgiving Day than they did on Black Friday. "The consumer is much more tuned into how and when they can get the best deal," said Vicki Cantrell, executive director of Shop.org, the National Retail Federation's digital division. "The economy is a factor. They're saying, "I'll go shopping on Thanksgiving if I can pay less.'"

The number of consumers who reported shopping on the holiday either online or offline has steadily climbed to 22 % in 2011 from 15% in 2008, according to the NRF.

In 2011, an unprecedented number of retailers opened on the holiday, including Gap, Kmart, Bass Pro Shops, Target and Toys "R' Us. Plenty of others, including Macy's , Best Buy, Walmart and Kohl's, touted earlier-than-ever-before store openings, leading to the coining of the term "Black Midnight."

The trend is only expected to gain steam. As Ms. Cantrell pointed out, retailers that promoted Thanksgiving Day sales last year will be expected to perform against those numbers this year. "You don't bump up sales one year and then say you're going to hold off," she said. "Ten other retailers are [after] your shopper -- you can't not be in the game."

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