Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty ImagesBy ANNE D’INNOCENZIO
NEW YORK — J.C. Penney is opening its doors on Thanksgiving evening to kick off the holiday shopping season, as the beleaguered retailer hopes to get back in the game for the crucial selling period.
The Plano, Texas-based chain will be opening most of its 1,100 stores at 8 p.m., the same as rival Macy’s (M). The Thanksgiving evening opening is much earlier than last year, when Penney didn’t open until 6 a.m. Friday. That made the retailer one of the laggards for the unofficial kickoff to the season.
J.C. Penney (JCP) 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.
“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 hiring at least 35,000 seasonal workers for the holidays, nearly 50 percent 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 the 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 were down 12 cents to close at $7.35 Thursday and have lost 63 percent of their value since the beginning of the year. The stock has lost 83 percent of its value since early February of last year.
Stores are ushering the holiday season earlier every year, creeping into Thanksgiving. Macy’s scheduled 8 p.m. opening on Thanksgiving compares with its midnight Friday opening in 2012.
Last year, Target (TGT) opened its doors at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving, three hours earlier than the previous year. Walmart Stores (WMT), 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 such as Gap (GPS) also have opened their doors on Thanksgiving Day.
Target, Walmart and Gap haven’t yet announced their plans for the Thanksgiving weekend.