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Stores plan to open doors on Thanksgiving night to kick off holiday sales

Erin Law, left, tries to stay warm while waiting in line at Best Buy in Concord on Friday at 4:30 am, Nov. 27, 2009.  Law, from Bow, got in line around 1 am in hopes of getting a Sony laptop deal at the electronics store.  The line for Best Buy, which opened at 5 am, wrapped around the building.

(KATIE BARNES / Monitor photo)

Erin Law, left, tries to stay warm while waiting in line at Best Buy in Concord on Friday at 4:30 am, Nov. 27, 2009. Law, from Bow, got in line around 1 am in hopes of getting a Sony laptop deal at the electronics store. The line for Best Buy, which opened at 5 am, wrapped around the building. (KATIE BARNES / Monitor photo) Purchase photo reprints at PhotoExtra »

For people looking for a good excuse to escape the family after Thanksgiving dinner, retailers are offering one: Black Friday deals now start on Thursday night.

“I think it’s customer demand; it’s what customers want,” said Nancy Kyle, president and CEO of the Retail Merchants Association of New Hampshire.

Several big box stores, including Walmart, Sears, Kmart and Target are opening on Thursday night and staying open for at least 24 straight hours. Select stores at both the Tanger Outlets in Tilton and the Merrimack Premium Outlets in Merrimack will also open Thursday night. Stores in malls across the state, including the Steeplegate Mall in Concord and the Simon Malls across New Hampshire will begin opening at midnight.

The trend of opening stores earlier and earlier for deal-crazed shoppers is likely to continue, Kyle said.

“I think that that’s a trend that you’re going to see continuing. Retailers try to compete with online shopping,” she said. “Brick-and-mortar retailers have to be more flexible in their schedules.”

Of the big box stores, Walmart, Kmart, Toys‘R’Us and Sears will open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night, with deals on electronics, toys and jewelry topping the list of sales.

In addition to first-come, first-serve doorbusters, Walmart is guaranteeing that anyone in the store between 10 and 11 p.m. will get a deal on three items, with people obtaining a voucher for the sale if the items run out.

Those items are: A 16GB iPad2 with Wi-Fi for $399 plus a $75 Walmart gift card, a 32-inch Emerson LCD television for $148, and an LG Blue-ray player for $38.

Target will open at 9 p.m. and stay open through 11 p.m. Friday. Macy’s, Kohl’s and Best Buy are waiting until midnight to open their doors.

At the Merrimack Premium Outlets, a handful of stores including American Eagle Outfitters, LOFT Outlet, Coach and more will open at 9 p.m., with a collection of other stores opening at 10 and 11 p.m. A band will also play at the outlets from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m., for what the outlets are calling “Midnight Madness.”

The Tanger Outlets in Tilton will be offering its own “Moonlight Madness” sale, with 20 percent off from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m., and 30 percent off from 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.

Coupons for those deals can be printed off of the mall’s website.

This is the third year in a row that the outlets have opened at 10 p.m. on Thursday, said Eric Proulx, general manager. He estimates about 10,000 people will come in for the Thursday night sale.

“We have an amazing response,” he said. “One hour prior to stores opening this parking lot will be completely full including overflow parking.”

He said he thinks the Thursday night sale brings extra shoppers, not just earlier ones. The prospect of staying up later might appeal to people who don’t normally get up early to shop.

“Definitely it’s created a new shopper,” Proulx said.

Retailers in New Hampshire are expecting a 3 percent increase in sales from last year, Kyle said. New Hampshire was not hit quite as hard as other states by the recession, she said, and the state’s lack of a sales tax helps retailers do well. In addition, there are 32 shopping days (33, if you count Thanksgiving night) between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year, which is the longest amount of time possible between the two holidays. That means even more time for shopping.

“I think that people will shop a little bit more because they’re not going to feel it’s rushed,” Kyle said.

Earlier door openings, more days to shop and better deals than ever sound like a perfect combination for more holiday shopping chaos. Are the stores ready?

“I think our retailers are staffed, I think that they have a lot of inventory,” Kyle said. “I think that they’re ready.”

(Kathleen Ronayne can be reached at 369-3309 or kronayne@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @kronayne.)

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