By Bruce Horovitz, USA TODAY
Put the turkey on autopilot.
With holiday retail sales projected to be anemic, some chains with branches in Central Georgia will open their doors on Thanksgiving Day - several nationally for the first time.
Walmart is open. So are most Old Navy stores. Toys R Us will open at midnight. RadioShack will test Turkey Day openings on the West Coast.
And it's the first time for T.G.I. Friday's. Others who have done it for years will continue, including Kmart and Walgreen's.
"They're trying to eke every penny out of every day of the selling season," says Wendy Liebmann, president of the consulting firm WSL Strategic Retail. "The more days they're open, the more chance they have of pulling money out of our pockets."
They've got good reason. Holiday spending likely will fall 1% in 2009 to $437.6 billion, the National Retail Federation projects.
"Retailers need to be competitive," says NRF spokeswoman Ellen Davis. "There's a lot riding on the success of November and December retail sales."
So more will open nationally on Thanksgiving Day, including:
-Walmart. Most of Wal-Mart's 3,500 stores opened Thanksgiving Day at 6 a.m. - or earlier. Besides boosting sales, it's hoping to help thin volatile Black Friday crowds. Last year an employee was trampled to death by crowds after a store opened in Long Island, N.Y. "It's an added measure to help manage the event at all of our stores," says spokeswoman Daphne Moore. Promotional deals, however, will not be available until 5 a.m. Friday.
-Old Navy. Some 700 of the Gap unit's 1,026 stores are open from noon to 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. "Consumers need a compelling reason to come into stores and buy," says spokeswoman Louise Callagy. Sweaters that usually sell for $30 will go for $15, she says. Some 350 of the company's Gap, Banana Republic and outlet stores also will be open, she says.
-Toys R Us. While not really open on Thanksgiving Day, most of the chain's stores will open late Thursday at midnight. Some 70 unadvertised "door busters" will be available between midnight and 1 a.m.
-RadioShack. The electronics chain has tested Thanksgiving in limited locations for several years. This year, it will spread to 700 stores in the Western USA, says marketing chief Lee Applbaum. "We are responding to the needs of consumers."
-T.G.I. Friday's. To spur sales, about 560 of the chain's 600 eateries will be open on Thanksgiving from 4 p.m. to 11 p.m. President John Neitzel says 2009 was the roughest year for Friday's in his 27 years with the chain.