Macy's Inc. and Target Corp. announced plans to open some stores at midnight on Thanksgiving, getting the earliest start to the holiday shopping season ever. With analysts predicting only modest sales gains, the season is likely to be highly competitive for store chains.
The National Retail Federation earlier this month forecast that U.S. retail sales would rise 2.8 percent in November and December, excluding cars, gas, and restaurants.
The fight for sales is likely to be more intense this year for chains that cater to middle-income shoppers who are ready to spend more, but will still be careful with their money, raising the stakes for a good start to the season for discount retailers and department stores.
"We expect significant competition in the moderate market and in electronics," Richard Hastings, a Global Hunter Securities analyst said, noting that it costs little to keep stores open a few more hours.
While store hours can vary by chain and by location, most chains opened their doors at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving last year.
But opening times have gotten earlier and earlier in recent years, inevitably leading to midnight openings.
Last year, the NRF found that the number of people who began their "Black Friday" shopping at midnight had tripled to 9.5 percent of shoppers.
Read more from Fox Business.