Hadley Malcolm, USA TODAY
J.C. Penney is now in line with competitors trying to lure shoppers on Thanksgiving night - it's opening its doors for the first time on the holiday as it attempts to present a strong showing during the holiday season after a year of disappointing sales.
The Plano, Texas-based chain will open most of its 1,100 stores at 8 p.m. on the holiday and will be open 25 hours straight, closing at 9 p.m. the following day.
Last year Penney didn't open until 6 a.m. Friday. That made the retailer one of the laggards for the unofficial kickoff to the season. Other retailers have already been opening Thanksgiving night for the past two years. Toys R Us, Target, Sears, Walmart, and Kmart have all started opening at 8 or 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night. Macy's announced earlier this week it would open stores for the first time on Thanksgiving this year, with most stores opening at 8 p.m.
SHOPPING: Most Macy's stores will open at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving
"Obviously, we were one of the last to open (last year)," said Tony Bartlett, Penney's executive vice president of stores. But he noted this year, "We're all in."
He promised that Penney's deals will be at least as good as two years ago and will be much better than last year, when Penney gave away buttons tied to a prize giveaway. Penney is also bringing back a tradition it ditched last year: It will give away nearly 2 million holiday snow globes starting at 4 a.m. on the Friday after the turkey feast.
Penney is hiring at least 35,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, nearly 50% more than a year ago.
The holiday plan is yet another example of how Penney is unraveling the strategies of its former CEO Ron Johnson, who was ousted in April after 17 months on the job amid a botched up plan to reinvent the retailer. Johnson was fired two months after the company announced horrific fourth-quarter results that covered the holiday shopping season. That ended a fiscal year, which finished Feb. 2, in which Penney amassed almost a billion dollars in losses and a 25 percent drop in sales.
Penney brought back Johnson's predecessor, Mike Ullman, as CEO. He is restoring frequent sales and basic merchandise that were eliminated by Johnson, who was aiming to attract a more affluent, younger shopper.
Shares of J.C. Penney were down nearly 3% to $7.14 Friday. They have lost 83% of their value since early February 2012.
Stores are ushering the holiday season earlier every year, creeping into Thanksgiving. Last year, Target opened its doors at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than the previous year. Wal-Mart Stores the world's largest retailer, began the early-bird specials at 8 p.m. on the holiday, two hours earlier than in 2011. A growing number of mall-based clothing stores like Gap also have opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day.
Target, Wal-Mart and Gap have not yet announced their plans for the Thanksgiving weekend.