Retailers counting on Thanksgiving, Black Friday sales in stores and online _lowres

Associated Press file photo -- Retalers are ready fo the nearly 136 million consumers expected to participate nationally in the busiest shopping weekend of the year. Many of them are making more if not all of the same Black Friday deals available online as in stores.

Lured by the promise of deep discounts on hot-ticket items such as home appliances, big-screen televisions and video game consoles, plenty of people will put away the leftovers and head to the store on Thursday as more retailers begin opening their doors on Thanksgiving rather than waiting for Friday.

Nearly 136 million consumers may participate in the busiest shopping weekend of the year, according to forecasts from the National Retail Federation. But in recent years, as more of them have reached for their keyboard rather than their car keys, many big-box retailers have adjusted, making more if not all of the same Black Friday deals available online and alleviating the need to camp out at dawn to snag a great deal.

Of those surveyed nationally who said they were likely to go shopping over the holiday weekend, nearly three-quarters reported plans to do it Friday, with less than a quarter ready to go out on Thanksgiving, according to the trade group’s preliminary count.

As a bonus for online shoppers, many retailers are advertising incentives such as discounted shipping or same-day delivery throughout the holiday season, likely in an effort to compete with Internet juggernaut Amazon.com.

Retailing giants Wal-Mart and Target are among those putting most Black Friday deals online Thursday morning, with stores opening in the evening. Target remains open through the night to Black Friday. As an added incentive to draw crowds on Friday, Target is dangling an offer of 20 percent off a future purchase for customers who spend at least $75. Macy’s, which is opening its stores at 6 p.m. Thursday, will offer deals on its website all day and also is open through the night into Black Friday.

Sears is among stores opening partial hours, from 6 p.m. Thanksgiving to 2 a.m. Friday and reopening at 5 a.m., with a fresh round of deals — including appliances, apparel, tools and jewelry — and, presumably, salespeople.

Meanwhile, some retailers have pushed back in recent weeks from the hoopla tied to the big weekend. To much fanfare, outdoor retailer REI — which has no Louisiana locations — announced it will close the doors to its 143 retail stores Thursday and Friday. Its website will be dark Friday, and the retailer plans to pay its 12,000 workers to take the day off.

“Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside,” Jerry Stritzke, REI’s president and CEO, said in a statement

Locally, other big chain stores, such as Costco and Sam’s Club, will be closed Thursday but open Friday.

For many large retailers, deciding whether to open Thursday, Friday or not at all can be a tough call that plays out at the corporate level, said Pamela Kennett-Hensel, a marketing professor at the University of New Orleans.

“It’s a delicate balancing act between deciding whether you want to go for the profits or the opportunity to make money on Thursday vs. do you want to go the route of allowing or encouraging your employees and your customers to spend time with their family and waiting until Friday to really jump into it,” she said.

For shoppers, even those who cringe or scoff at the prospect of tramping out to the mall after a long day of cooking and eating with family and friends, sometimes the savings are too hard to resist.

“If you give people the opportunity to get something at a deal, at a better price, they’ll take advantage of it,” said Harish Sujan, a business professor at Tulane University. “They’ll push aside their turkey plates and go shopping. It’s too tempting.”

However, that doesn’t mean Sujan agrees with it.

“For all but this one day of the year and Christmas Day, we have these salespeople in retail stores serving us,” he said. “What about thinking about them? They need a break, too.”

Here’s what some major national retailers are doing on Thanksgiving and Black Friday:

DISCOUNT STORES: Target opens 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and stays open all night into Black Friday; Kmart opens 7 p.m. and stays open all night into Black Friday; Wal-Mart deals start at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving.

DEPARTMENT STORES: JC Penney opens at 3 p.m. Thanksgiving and stays open all night into Black Friday; Kohl’s opens 6 p.m. and stays open all night into Black Friday; Macy’s opens 6 p.m. and stays open all night into Black Friday; Sears opens 6 p.m. and closes 2 a.m. Friday, then reopens at 5 a.m.

ELECTRONIC STORES: Best Buy opens 5 p.m. Thanksgiving and closes 1 a.m. Friday, reopening at 8 a.m.; GameStop closed Thanksgiving, opens 5 a.m. Friday; hhgregg opens 4 p.m. Thanksgiving and closes 12 a.m. Friday, reopening at 7 a.m.; RadioShack opens 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thanksgiving, then 8 a.m. Friday.

TOY STORES: Toys R Us opens 5 p.m. Thanksgiving and stays open all night into Black Friday.

WAREHOUSE STORES: Costco closed Thanksgiving and opens 9 a.m. Friday; Sam’s Club closed Thanksgiving and opens 7 a.m. Friday.

SPORTING GOODS STORES: Dick’s Sporting Goods opens 6 p.m. Thanksgiving and closes 2 a.m. Friday, then reopens at 5 a.m.; Sports Authority opens 6 p.m. and closes midnight Friday, then reopens at 6 a.m.

CRAFT STORES : Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores closed Thanksgiving and opens 6 a.m. Friday; Michaels opens 4 p.m. Thanksgiving and closes 2 a.m. Friday, then reopens at 7 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow Richard Thompson on Twitter, @rthompsonMSY.