By ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
NEW YORK — 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 (M) and Kmart (SHLD) 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 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 recovery 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 it easier for Americans like Peter Sallese, who either stayed out of stores so far because of money problems, inclement weather and 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 the 24-hour strategy for back in 2006, but it’s made some tweaks this year. Most 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 between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m. from Friday through Monday. And on Christmas Eve, most Macy’s stores will 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.
Percentage of U.S. population who visited in March: 22.7%
Revenue: $71.6 billion
1-year stock price change: 42.17%
Store category: Drugstore
Despite CVS’s gains, Walgreens is still the most visited drugstore in the country. According to RetailSails, the company has the most stores, at 7,890, and the largest average store, at 14,400 square feet, among all drugstore chains. The company’s tenure in first place may not last, however, thanks to that now-resolved dispute with Express Scripts. The company spent nearly nine months without using Express Scripts, the largest prescription management service in the country, losing an estimated 60 million prescriptions to rivals. CVS estimates that it will retain roughly half of the Walgreen’s customers it gained as a result of the squabble.
Percentage of U.S. population who visited in March: 23.9%
Revenue: $13.3 billion
1-year stock price change: 12.46%
Store category: Coffee
There is a reason Starbucks (SBUX) is No. 1 in the coffee category: Sales in the U.S. grew by nearly 346% between 2001 and 2012, and the number of stores grew by 195%. The company has struggled in the U.S. in the past several years, but its stock has continued to rise as global sales have helped to pick up the slack. Worldwide, Starbucks revenue grew by 7% in 2012 compared to 2011. This included a 15% growth in the Asia/Pacific region. In its early years, the company did not place much emphasis on its food items. However, that has changed in recent years, especially following the purchase of Bay Area pastry chain La Boulangerie. However, some industry analysts remain skeptical of Starbucks’ ability to compete for customers’ breakfast purchases.
Percentage of U.S. population who visited in March: 24.3%
Revenue: $2.0 billion
1-year stock price change: N/A
Store category: Fast food
The last decade or so has been especially tumultuous for Burger King: It was taken private in two separate instances, in 2002 and in 2010, and became a public company again last June. The company hasn’t performed well in years, with an average growth rate of -0.1% between 2001 and 2013, which allowed Wendy’s to take its No. 2 burger chain title. A restructuring that began after the second buyout in 2010, in which many stores were sold to franchisees, has cut deeply into the company’s sales. But not all news for Burger King is bad news: Nearly one quarter of Americans visited a Burger King in March.
Percentage of U.S. population who visited in March: 37.8%
1-year stock price change: N/A
Store category: Fast food
Between 2001 and 2012, Subway’s sales in the U.S. grew nearly 169%, while the number of stores grew nearly 93%. Subway is by far the largest fast food chain in the U.S., with almost 26,000 restaurants. The company has been able to fuel its large growth through both international expansion and a domestic focus on healthy eating, most notably using ads featuring Jared Fogle — a man who lost an impressive amount of weight while regularly eating the company’s sandwiches. In 2013, for the ninth year in a row, Subway received the highest score in the country in a Harris Poll EquiTrend study in the “quick service restaurants” category and was named brand of the year by that group.
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