Black Friday Forecast: Fewer Shoppers, More Deals

A new survey from the National Rbananarepublicetail Federation predicts that beginning at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, some 140 million people will leave the turkey on the table and go shopping.

That represents a slight dip from the 147 million who did so last year, which means that stores will be wooing shoppers with extra-special deals, discounts and special programs.

The survey -- based on a sample of 6,200 adults -- finds that 23.5% plan to take advantage of the many stores that are opening on Thanksgiving Day itself, or about 33 million. (While many chains have announced plans to open at 8 p.m., others -- led by Walmart and Best Buy -- are throwing the gates open at 6 p.m.) And while Black Friday itself seems to be losing relevance by the hour, it will still be the biggest day of the weekend, with 69.1% planning to shop then. And 43.8% say they intend to shop on what has become known as Super Saturday. Another 24.2% say they will head to malls on Sunday.

The NRF says this year, stores “are prepared to pull out all the stops for their online and in-store shoppers, including offering sweepstakes with cash prizes, free gifts with purchase and even exclusive opportunities to score top gift items before everyone else.”

Giants like Walmart, Target, JCPenney, Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom are already splashing their Web sites with dramatic markdowns and bonus offers. And such retailers as the Home Depot, Sears and Kmart are promising Black Friday prices a week before Black Friday.

Still, not every retailer is turning to discounts. The Gap’s Banana Republic, for example, is kicking off an “8 days of giving” event that goes beyond its own merchandise -- including a $15 coupon for a bottle of wine, free bottles of OPI nail polish, and even a voucher for 20% off a Virgin America flight. And Old Navy, also a Gap brand, is relying on a $1 million sweepstakes.

And while store hours may be new this year, the way that shoppers plan to find the best prices are pretty traditional: Store circulars and emails will be their main sources, followed by store Web sites and coupon Web sites.

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