Some stores are ending the holiday shopping season the same way they began it — with round-the-clock, marathon shopping hours.
Kohl's for the first time is staying open for essentially five days straight, from 6 a.m. on Friday through 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Macy's and Kmart are opening some of their stores for more than 100 hours in a row from Friday through Christmas Eve. And Toys R Us is staying open for 87 hours straight starting on Saturday, which is typically the second biggest shopping day of the year.
The expanded hours in the final days before Christmas are reminiscent of how some retailers typically begin the season on the day after Thanksgiving known as Black Friday. The strategy comes as stores try to recoup lost sales during a season that's been hobbled by a number of factors.
Despite a recovering economy, many Americans have been struggling with stagnant wages and other issues. On top of that, the time period between the official holiday shopping kickoff on Black Friday and the end of the season is six days shorter than a year ago. That has given Americans less time to shop.
Sales at U.S. stores rose 2 percent to $176.7 billion from Nov. 1 through last Sunday, according to ShopperTrak. That's a slower pace than the 2.4 percent increase the Chicago store data tracker expects for the entire two-month season.
The disappointing growth pace has put more pressure on retailers to get people into stores in the final days before Christmas. A lot is at stake because they can make up to 40 percent of their revenue in November and December.
"It's make or break for the retailers," said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, a consumer research company. "They have to make up for lost ground."
Retailers hope the expanded hours will make last-minute shopping easier for Americans like Peter Sallese, who have either stayed out of stores so far because of money problems, inclement weather or other issues. The financial executive from New York City said he's usually finished with shopping by mid-December, but with the shortened season, he fell behind.
"Basically, when I came back from Thanksgiving, there was no time," Sallese said. "Add in the snow and the freezing weather, and you didn't feel like shopping."
This isn't the first year retailers have used marathon hours to lure shoppers. Toys R Us will open for from 6 a.m. on Saturday to 9 p.m. on Christmas Eve — the fourth year it's had marathon hours at the end of the season. And this is the third year Kmart has offered round-the-clock hours: The discounter will open a little more than one tenth of its 1,100 stores from 6 a.m. on Friday until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
Macy's began testing its 24-hour strategy in 2006, but it has made tweaks this year. Most Macy's locations were open for 48 hours straight during the final two days before Christmas last year. But this year, 37 of Macy's 800 stores will be open for 107 hours from 7 a.m. on Friday to 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve.
The rest of Macy's locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 2 a.m., Friday through Monday. And on Christmas Eve, most Macy's stores will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
"Our customers love the option to shop late night, overnight and/or first thing in the morning," said Elina Kazan, a Macy's spokeswoman.
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