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JC Penney will be open on Thanksgiving

A J.C. Penney store in Brooklyn, New York.
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A J.C. Penney store in Brooklyn, New York.

Add J.C. Penney to the list of retailers that will be open for business on Thanksgiving Day.

The department store chain will once again begin its Black Friday deals at 3 p.m. that Thursday, a spokeswoman told CNBC.

That's two hours earlier than competitor Macy's, which said last month that it would open at 5 p.m. on the holiday. In 2015, Macy's opened at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

The companies' decisions come as several industry players are changing their approach to Thanksgiving openings, which many argue simply spread out sales over a longer period of time.

Minnesota's Mall of America, along with 73 centers operated by CBL & Associates, said earlier this fall that they would keep their doors closed this Thanksgiving, following years of being open.

Individual retailers including HHGregg have also shifted their approach, in what over the years had become a new tradition of ever-earlier hours.

"We think that for our employees and for the store employees, they deserve the day off and to be able to spend the day with their families," CBL CEO Stephen Lebovitz told CNBC last month.

It doesn't make sense for CBL's centers to be open on Thanksgiving, given they're often the only game in town, Lebovitz said. That means the additional hours were not accretive to their sales.

Yet many expected the major department stores to stick with their Thanksgiving hours, as a means to compete against online and bricks-and-mortar players. If Macy's didn't open on Thanksgiving, for example, shoppers could go to Penney's — meaning Macy's missed out on sales.

While many blame these earlier openings for eating away at Black Friday's excitement, they're also a way for retailers to tap into the nostalgia of in-store shopping at the holidays. Using seasonal decor and special events to drive foot traffic is becoming even more critical as consumers buy more of their Christmas gifts online.

"For them, it is important to be able to have people enjoy that experience," Deloitte's Rod Sides said.

Deloitte said shoppers expect to spend 47 percent of their holiday budgets online this year — which means this could be the first holiday where shoppers split their spending equally between bricks-and-mortar and e-commerce retailers.

Target and Wal-Mart have not yet announced their Black Friday plans, but are widely expected to once again kick off their sales on Thanksgiving Day.

Also Wednesday, Penney's said it would expand its holiday price-match guarantee, and start teasing its Black Friday deals earlier in the month, beginning Monday.