Hoping to carve out a bigger slice of holiday shopping budgets in tough economic times, some Fargo-Moorhead area retailers will open their doors on Thanksgiving Day for the first time this year.
Old Navy in West Fargo will welcome shoppers from noon to 7 p.m., kicking off a three-day "Gobblepalooza" promotion that encourages families to play the video game "Rock Band" while in the store.
Daniel Rubin, spokesman for Old Navy's parent company, Gap Inc., said some Old Navy stores did business on Turkey Day in 2008.
"The reason why we are opening so many this year, though, is because we really heard customer feedback about wanting flexibility in their shopping plans, and wanting to take advantage when they're visiting family or on the go," he said.
RadioShack in Moorhead also will give customers a head start on their holiday shopping Thursday, offering pre-Black Friday-type deals from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Fargo RadioShack in the West Acres mall will be closed with the rest of the mall Thursday.
For other retailers, being open Thanksgiving Day is as much a ritual as the holiday itself.
Walmart's 24-hour stores in Fargo and Dilworth will remain open around the clock Thursday and Friday, while Kmart stores in Fargo and Moorhead will be open from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday.
Walgreens in Moorhead and Michaels Arts & Crafts in Fargo also will be open Thanksgiving Day.
Target stores in Fargo and Moorhead will be closed Thanksgiving Day.
"Our employees like to be with their families on that day," said Bobbi Rhinesmith, a manager at the Moorhead Target.
Retailers have been advertising Black Friday-type sales since Halloween, trying to entice budget-conscious customers to start Christmas shopping early in light of a prediction that two-thirds of purchases will be made with cash or debit cards instead of credit cards, said Mike Rud, North Dakota Retailers Association president.
"I think the intent was, by starting the holiday shopping season a little bit earlier, that people would extend it out a little bit, and therefore their budget wouldn't be so strapped in that last 30 days of the Christmas shopping season," Rud said.
Kmart has been offering "Better Than Black Friday" sales for several weeks, with good response, said Fargo Kmart manager Nick Bosh. Walmart will offer nearly 50 online-only specials on Thanksgiving Day, followed by in-store Black Friday deals starting at 5 a.m.
Rud said that despite the promotions leading up to Black Friday, he expects the busiest shopping day of the year to be as intense as ever, with good deals awaiting discount-minded customers.
"I guess I don't see Black Friday changing at all. I think it's still going to be one of your bigger days, there's no question about that," he said.
The National Weather Service was forecasting mostly sunny weather with highs in the mid-30s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, which should help retailers who were plagued by weekend storms during last year's holiday shopping season, Rud said.
"Hopefully, we're in for a surprise from a retail standpoint," he said.