BUSINESS
11/20/2014 12:22 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2014

Fewer People Plan To Shop On Thanksgiving This Year

Spencer Platt via Getty Images

Could the country's biggest box stores be losing their so-called "War on Thanksgiving"?

Fewer Americans plan to spend their turkey day shopping this year compared to 2013, according to a report released Thursday by the National Retail Federation.

Only 18.3 percent of people (25.6 million people) who said they will shop on Thanksgiving weekend plan to do so on Thanksgiving Day, according to NRF. That's down from the 23.5 percent of holiday shoppers who said they would shop on Thanksgiving Day last year.

The NRF polled 6,593 people, 61.1 percent of whom said they plan to shop either Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday of Thanksgiving weekend. Based on the poll, the NRF expects 140.1 million Americans to shop throughout the course of the weekend, which is down slightly from the 140.3 million expected last year.

The decline comes as more and more of the nation's biggest retailers prepare to kick off their holiday shopping sales on Thanksgiving Day, instead of the following day, known as Black Friday.

Considered the biggest shopping weekend of the year, Black Friday and the days around it have grown into a giant turf war for the nation's brick-and-mortar stores, all struggling to stave off the effects of a sluggish economic recovery and facing fierce competition from online retailers.

Kmart plans to kick off its Black Friday sales at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day, and stay open 42 hours straight. Most Walmart stores will be open all day on Thanksgiving as well, with Black Friday deals starting at 6 p.m.

Jeff Shelman, a spokesman for Best Buy, recently told The Huffington Post that the electronics retailer began stretching its Black Friday shopping into Thanksgiving Day last year after noticing it was losing shoppers to competitors who opened earlier on Thursday.

"The reality is, customers have shown that they want to shop on Thanksgiving evening, and we want to be there to serve those customers," Shelman said.

Deisha Barnett, a spokeswoman for Walmart, said the nation's biggest retailer is "cautiously optimistic" about Thanksgiving weekend.

"Competition is definitely heavy out there," Barnett said. She did not disclose how many shoppers she expects to come out on Thanksgiving this year.

Last year, sales on Black Friday actually fell 13.2 percent compared to 2012 because more shoppers were coming out on Thursday. Stores generally count on holiday shopping for a huge portion of their annual sales.

In recent years, however, this aggressive push has come under scrutiny from shoppers and workers who accuse large retailers of waging war on Thanksgiving -- a day, like Christmas, when stores have historically remained closed. Many low-wage workers now have to sacrifice the holiday to staff store openings that are generally pretty chaotic, and sometimes even dangerous.

That said, retailers maintain that Thanksgiving weekend has become the "Super Bowl" of the retail industry, and that employees generally are pretty excited to work.

HuffPost

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