Who needs Black Friday? More stores are opening Thanksgiving Day.

Surveys show that more consumers want to get a jump on Black Friday and shop on Thanksgiving Day. With retailers desperate to boost sales, an increasing number are staying open.

By , Staff writer

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    In this Aug. 19, 2009, file photo, a shopper leaves a Gap store in Palo Alto, Calif. Gap will open 100 of its stores nationwide on Thanksgiving Day rather than waiting for Black Friday.
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After the last of the turkey is eaten and the pumpkin pie consumed, many Americans will head for the mall to do a little shopping.

Shopping? Wait a minute! Nothing is going to be open, everyone will be watching football games and getting ready for the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday.

Not anymore. An increasing number of stores are opting to open on Thanksgiving Day. Stores such as Walmart, Sears, and Gap will be open for business.

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Retailers say they are just responding to demand, that some people want to shop instead of sit in front of the television set. And they say employees are happy to get paid time and a half. But some retail employees who have to work that day have taken to Facebook or blogs, complaining about the new policy and trying to organize boycotts.

The debate over opening on Thanksgiving comes amid steadily improving consumer sales. On Wednesday, the Commerce Department reported October personal spending rose a nominal 0.4 percent after dipping slightly in September. And the Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan November survey of consumer sentiment improved to its highest level since June.

“We have confidence up, spending up, income up, it’s all coming together,” says economist Joel Naroff of Naroff Economic Advisors in Holland, Pa. “A few months ago, I thought the holiday season would be just OK, but now I am up to thinking it will be decent, a little better than expected.”

Mr. Naroff thinks one of the reasons retailers are starting to open on Thanksgiving Day is desperation.

“The real question is: Are you displacing sales for the rest of the weekend?” he asks.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey found a steady increase in the number of people who say they would like to shop on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, about 10 percent indicated they would shop. This year, 15 percent said they would shop.

“People want to do more than just eat and watch football,” says Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the NRF in Washington. “As long as there is a need, retailers are looking for ways to meet it.”

One of those is Gap, Inc., which owns Old Navy, Banana Republic, and Gap stores.

Two years ago, it opened a few Old Navy stores on Thanksgiving Day. Last year, it opened more of them. And this year, it will open about 90 percent of its 800 Old Navy stores, about 100 Gap stores, and a handful of Banana Republic stores.

“It seems like people want to shop on Thanksgiving,” says Stacy Rollo, a spokeswoman for Gap, Inc., in San Francisco.

Walmart, the nation’s largest retailer, says only the 24-hour stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day – if it’s not a violation of local laws. However, this year, for the first time most of the rest of the stores will open at midnight on Friday instead of 5 a.m. for what Walmart is calling an “Open House.”

However, some consumers and retail workers are unhappy over the prospect of working on Thanksgiving.

“It's one thing for stores to open at a crazy hour on the day after Thanksgiving to attract the 'Black Friday' crowds," says one entry on Facebook. “You can bet your pumpkin pie that the Execs are scarfing down turkey while their employees are having to work instead of having a day off with family.”

On the Internet, a blogger by the name of Rachel Mace is suggesting people boycott Sears, which is open from 7 a.m. to noon on Thanksgiving Day. Kmart, which is owned by Sears, is open all day. “Abusing Retail Workers is not cool,” she writes.

However, Kim Freely, a spokeswoman for Sears Holdings in Chicago, says it has asked its workers to volunteer to work that day. “Given the tough economic times, there has been a demand from associates to supplement their income with holiday premium pay,” says Ms. Freely.

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