Many stores in Carrollton will be open earlier than ever this year, with several opening tonight. And shoppers will have a wide variety of options for the traditional start of the Christmas shopping season.
Local bargain hunters who want to get an early start on the deals can leave before Thanksgiving is even over, with stores like Kmart, Sears and Walmart opening at 8 p.m. tonight and Target not far behind them with an open time of 9 p.m.
Other local businesses will be opening at various early morning hours up to the regular weekday starting hours of 9 and 10 a.m., which some downtown stores will be observing.
Nationwide, economists are predicting a slightly better holiday season than last year, with a slightly decreased showing on Black Friday.
The National Retail Federation is predicting that 147 million people plan to shop Black Friday weekend (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), a slight decrease from the 152 million who planned to do so last year.
Despite economic concerns, the AAA Consumer Pulse survey shows that 76 percent of shoppers plan to spend the same amount or more money on gifts this year, but notes a 10 percent decline in the number of shoppers who will shop on Black Friday, decreasing from 2011’s 51 percent to this year’s 41 percent.
The Carrollton Kmart will actually be open for most of the day today. The store will be selling deals from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. today, then close for four hours to get set up for its 8 p.m. reopening. The store will then be open until 3 a.m., when it will close again for two hours, opening at 5 a.m. Friday and staying open until 11 p.m.
Kmart assistant manager Robert Howard said electronics is the big draw for crowds to his store.
“People come in for the notepads and tablets and TVs,” Howard said. “And people should be able to get in and out faster than other stores.”
Howard said the store will have a limited supply of items, so shoppers should come early.
Big Lots will also be open today, from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., assistant manager Kristie Burrous said. The retailer will then close at 9 p.m. tonight and reopen in the morning at 6 a.m. for their Black Friday sales.
Walmart, where hundreds of people have flocked in recent years at midnight, is pushing the availability time of its first Black Friday deals up four hours to 8 p.m.
The store will stagger its deals, with good buys on video game consoles, movies and music starting 8 p.m., and bigger electronics, including TVs, iPads and DVD players, being sold at 10 p.m.
At the same time Walmart offers its first deals, Sears will open its doors at 8 p.m. The store will be open 22 hours straight, until 6 p.m. Friday, an idea manager John Eason finds exciting.
Sears will also be staggering its bargains, having some start at 8 p.m., with some starting at 10 p.m. and later, Eason said.
“We’ve got washers/dryers, refrigerators and lots of other things that will be at huge discounts,” Eason said. “And lots of people are coming in now asking for whole-house appliances, which is a good sign, economy-wise.”
An hour after Walmart and Sears offer their first deals, Target will open its doors at 9 p.m., giving shoppers deals on DVDs, TVs, video game consoles, e-readers and digital cameras.
The Carrollton Belk store will open at midnight, its earliest opening time ever. The department store will have early-bird specials on shoes, electrics, housewares and jewelry.
Belk store manager John Eller said Black Friday is a healthy mix of two things — crazy and fun.
“It’s insane, but it’s always one of the most fun days we have all year,” Eller, who will weather his 24th Christmas season in retail this year, said.
Opening one minute after Belk will be Game Stop, set to open its doors at 12:01 a.m. Friday, offering numerous deals on recently released games and consoles.
After GameStop’s opening, there will be several hours of no store openings in Carrollton — until 5 a.m., when Ross, Home Depot and Lowe’s open.
Local retail chains T.J.Maxx, Ross and the newly opened Beall’s Outlet will open early Friday morning.
Ross will open first at 5 a.m., followed in the next two hours by Beall’s at 6 a.m. and T.J.Maxx at 7 a.m.
Another local clothing store opening early is Lizard Thicket in Carrollton’s McIntosh Plaza, open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Friday.
Dana Cooper, sales associate at Lizard Thicket, said skinny jeans, layering pieces and scarves are expected to be the big sellers this year. Cooper said there will also be lots of discounted items on the sales floor.
Radio Shack in Carrollton will open at 6 a.m., offering several electronics and gadgets at discounted prices.
Hobby Lobby will open at a normal time Friday, starting its sales at 8 a.m.
Keith Behrens, manager of Hobby Lobby, said shoppers come by his store later on in the day, around lunchtime usually.
“We have more traffic later on Friday and into Saturday,” Behrens said. “When people start decorating their houses for Christmas.”
Hobby Lobby’s Christmas decor is all 50 percent, Behrens said.
Sit ‘n Sleep, the Carrollton furniture store, will observe normal hours on Friday and Saturday. The store will be open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday.
Jim Carter, who owns the store with wife Delores, said he is proud of the “Shop Local” campaign started in Carrollton, urging shoppers to spend money at local stores instead of going outside county lines to shop.
“Saturday will be a bigger day for us,” Carter said. “We won’t see a lot of customers until Friday afternoon and Saturday.”
Another store that’s observing normal hours is the Squire Shop, in its new Westover Square location. That store will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, just like always.
The weather man should cooperate with Black Friday shoppers this year.
The National Weather Service says Friday will be partly cloudy, with highs in the upper 60s, possibly reaching the 70-degree mark. Early morning shoppers may have to brave low temperatures in the low 40s, however. The forecast for shoppers heading out this evening is mostly clear with temperatures in the 50s.