If you thought crazy store hours were strictly a Black Friday phenomenon, get ready for next week.
With little more than a week left before Christmas, retailers are making their final push to entice last-minute shoppers. The last 10 days of the season traditionally bring out huge crowds — retailers see about one-third of their holiday sales during the period — and this year is no exception.
Toys R Us announced that it would remain open for 88 hours in a row starting at 6 a.m. Tuesday and continuing until 10 p.m. on Christmas Eve. It's the first time that all Toys R Us stores nationwide will stay open around the clock during the final countdown to Christmas.
The toy seller will also host midnight madness events starting Wednesday night, with deals available from midnight until 6 a.m., and will have its final two-day sale of the season on Tuesday and Wednesday, with toys more than 50% off.
Three Southland Macy's stores — at Glendale Galleria, Northridge Fashion Center and Stonewood Center in Downey — will remain open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 2 a.m. the following morning. Nationwide, 14 Macy's stores will be open for 83 consecutive hours, starting at 7 a.m. Tuesday, up from 12 stores last year; none of the 24-hour locations is in California.
"The demand was there, so we're rising to meet it," Macy's spokeswoman Milinda Martin said. "It offers customers the opportunity to get their holiday shopping done in a less harried manner, so we're excited about it."
JCPenney will also have extended store hours. Starting Friday, the department store chain will be open until midnight every day through Dec. 23, with the exception of Sunday, when stores will close at 11 p.m. On Christmas Eve, JCPenney will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Online retailers are jumping into the fray too. Many will be participating in "Free Shipping Day" on Friday, offering mall-weary shoppers the opportunity to buy online without the usual pesky shipping fees.
"Retailers are getting a little bit anxious but understand that the procrastinators are about to come out," said Sherif Mityas, a partner in the retail practice of management consulting firm A.T. Kearney. "There's clearly going to be an important push because more than 60% to 70% of the month's sales in December will come over the next five or six days."
The average person still had more than half of his holiday shopping left to do by the second week of December and 37 million people (16.9%) had not even started their shopping as of late last week, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
"Unfortunately, I do have some left to do," Victoria Jones, a preschool teacher from Torrance, said Thursday. "This is normally not the plan; usually I start shopping before the holidays and then when Black Friday hits, I'm done."
Because many consumers are still feeling the effects of the recession and continue to shop carefully, merchants have worked all season long to offer more deals and longer store hours. Those efforts appear to be working.
This week the National Retail Federation raised its holiday season sales forecast to a 3.3% increase over last year, up from 2.3%, based on stronger-than-expected November sales, stock market gains and savings built up during the recession.
"Consumers have not been suffering from a lack of spending power, they've just been missing the confidence to use it," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist of the retail trade group. "With noticeable improvement in key economic indicators, combined with great deals on merchandise, consumers have certainly shown they shouldn't be counted out this holiday season."
Some consumers say they're already shopped out. Jones, 43, said that although she'll be hitting the stores again next week to buy presents for her family, she isn't looking forward to it.
"It is extremely ridiculous, the hours that these stores are making themselves available," she said. "I guess I'm just falling into the trap that they open, but on a personal note, I could do without.... It's just so commercialized and sensationalized these days, but it's a sign of the times."