Malls may close, but the most popular stores aren't likely to give up their foothold on Thanksgiving's turf anytime soon.
Looking to history for guidance
Taking at look at what Black Friday hours the top players have kept over the last nine years, we can see the long, slow march into Thursday.
This should surprise absolutely no one who's paid even the smallest bit of attention to Black Friday over the years, but the visual is striking in that it shows that Black Friday sales have been interfering with Thanksgiving dinner since 2013. That's when Walmart, Best Buy and Toys R Us all crossed over into hours traditionally reserved for Americans' evening meals.
It's telling that after three years of public backlash, with the exception of Staples, the merchants in our chart haven't pulled back at all. On the contrary, it seems as though they've settled in. The message is clear: Outrage takes a backseat to profitability.
Smaller stores will close in greater numbers.
Sure, the smaller stores you typically find inside malls are more likely to close, partly under pressure from so many malls across the country that have effectively made that decision for them. For the vast majority of these stores, you can start shopping their Black Friday sales online at midnight on Thanksgiving morning, anyway, and save all of your crowd-fighting energy for bigger fish.
We'll see more mid-tier stores retreat to Black Friday.
And we may see more mid-tier defections, like Office Depot, which followed Staples' lead after watching them closely last year. Likewise, we expect to see more sporting goods stores closing after REI's wildly popular anti-Black Friday campaign.
As heartening as that seems to the anti-Black Thursday crowd, these stores never have been the kind of stores that anyone was really excited to camp out for or hit up at 2am after an exhausting run through Walmart's Black Friday gauntlet. Light foot traffic in the wee hours ultimately doesn't justify the cost of keeping the lights on overnight.
The big boxes and major department stores will stick to Thanksgiving open times.
But it's Macy's that's made it clear that the Thanksgiving status quo isn't going anywhere when they announced plans to open at 5pm on Thursday, an hour earlier than last year. There's no retreat happening here. Macy's feels no pressure from the malls since their stores are typically anchors with their own entrances. It doesn't matter if shoppers are angry, just so long as they show up with cash in hand.
So in the end, we don't expect to see any earth-shattering announcements from the likes of Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Kohl's. Forget caving to public pressure – they know that shoppers are at their beck and call. If you want a shot at a stellar 4K TV doorbuster, you'll suck it up and be there. Even if your heart is full of resentment.
2016 Black Friday Store Hours Predictions
There are our predictions for the Black Friday store hours at some of the most popular merchants.
Best Buy - Thursday at 5pm
Best Buy has been holding steady at 5pm for a couple years now, and we think they'll stay put.
Home Depot - Friday at 6am
Home Depot has opened at 6am on Black Friday for many years now. Any change is very unlikely.
JCPenney - Thursday at 2pm
JCPenney has been pushing earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving for awhile, casting about for an optimal start time.
Kmart - Thursday at 7pm
There's been very little consistency to Kmart's hours over the last few years. In 2014, they had doorbusters at both 6am and 7pm on Thursday. In 2015 dropped the 6am opening time but kept 7pm. Is that their sweet spot? It seems like a safe bet.
Kohl's - Thursday at 6pm
Another case of part consistency serving up a solid prediction.
Macy's - Thursday at 5pm (CONFIRMED)
This one isn't a prediction. Macy's confirmed the news to CNBC on October 16th. We're treating it as a sign of things to come this season.
Sears - Thursday at 6pm
They've opened their doors at 6pm for two years running, and we're looking for three.
Target - Thursday at 6pm
If Walmart stays open on Thanksgiving as expected, there's no way that Target lets that go unanswered. Look for them to match whatever Walmart does.
Toys R Us - Thursday at 5pm
Toys R Us has been comfortably settled in at 5pm on Thursday for the past three years.
Walmart - Thursday at 5pm or 6pm
Walmart has launched their sale at 6pm for the last three years, but we also think there's about a 50/50 chance that they may push it to 5pm for 2016 to steal some of Best Buy's thunder.
Not having it? We're also keeping a list of stores that will be closed on Thanksgiving.
This article first appeared in Brad's Deals.