Just when you thought “Black Friday creep” had hit its limit, J.C. Penney is doing everyone better.
The struggling department store said on Monday it would open stores on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, at 2 p.m., a full hour earlier than last year and three hours before major rivals Macy’s and Kohl’s, in a move that illustrates just how desperately it needs a sales boot.
Penney raised eyebrows two years ago when it decided to open as early as 3 p.m., a time when director competitors were closed, raising legitimate questions about who exactly needs to be at J.C. Penney right when tens of millions of Americans are sitting down to table for their Thanksgiving meal. Walmart stores are typically open all Thanksgiving afternoon, but that can be explained by the fact that it is the country’s largest grocer: it starts its Black Friday sales at 6 p.m.
Its problems lately have been such that it needs every dollar of sales it can muster. So Penney is betting it can get incremental business while competitors’ stores are dark, profit margins hurt by extra labor costs be damned. Penney stores will stay open until normal closing hours on Friday, so they’ll be open 32 hours at most locations.
In contrast, Target decided it would close between midnight and 6 a.m. on Black Friday and is opening at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Penney’s shares recently hit an all-time low after it announced a much worse quarterly loss projection than expected, hurt by the enormous markdowns Penney has taken on the women’s wear shoppers have balked at, and only forecast a slight comparable sales increase of at most 0.8% for the current quarter.
And on Friday, Penney announced the departure of its chief merchant, a key role, just days before key holiday season kicks into high gear and said it was eliminating that c-suite job altogether, which the head buyers reporting directly to CEO Marvin Ellison from now on.
As is the case with other retailers, Penney is getting an earlier start on Black Friday deals, starting online promotions on the preceding weekend rather than they day before, and the company has already released its 72-page Black Friday circular, publishing it almost a week earlier than last year.
Penney at the start of this year disappointed investors when it reported a 0.8% drop in comparable sales for the 2016 holiday season, a weak showing given its aggressive promotions of its appliance business and reinvigorated e-commerce business, so it’s clear Penney is looking to avoid a repeat of that this year.