Stores are pulling marathon hours to compete for shoppers in the final days before Christmas, but it probably won't make a huge difference in sales, industry observers say.
Retail workers, however, will be squeezed by the combination of short staffing and long hours, according to a union representative.
"People are always going to shop at the last minute," Patricia Edwards, a retail analyst in Seattle for Wentworth, Hauser and Violich. "I doubt it will do anything that actually moves the needle."
Edwards said the expanded hours won't hurt profits, as employees are going to be in the store anyway, stocking and resetting shelves.
National Retail Federation spokesman Scott Krugman said even if a store doesn't make a bundle during its extended hours, being open could help public perception.
"Everyone is competing on price, and retailers more and more are trying to find ways to stand out," Krugman said. "Moving to a 24-hour format is new for a lot of retailers, it helps differentiate them."
Just as the nation's stores lured shoppers at the start of the season with marathon hours, they are doing the same for the finale. Starting at 7 a.m. Friday, Macy's Inc. is keeping several of its stores in the New York metropolitan area, including its flagship store in Herald Square, open until 6 p.m. Christmas Eve. About 1,000 of Sears Holdings Corp.'s 1,387 Kmart stores will be open for 64 hours straight beginning at 6 a.m. Saturday and ending at 10 p.m. on Dec. 24, for the first time since 2002.
Walgreen Co. and CVS Caremark Corp. drugstores will also offer extended holiday hours.
Stuart Appelbaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, says extended hours hurt workers.
"Retail workers have a lot of stress at this time, not just about time taken away from families, but also worries about how to meet their family's needs," he said.
Ed Schmults, F.A.O. Schwarz's chief executive, defended the company's move to keep its New York toy store open on Christmas Day for the first time.
The workers all volunteered to for the shift, he said, adding that store will cater to non-Christians, tourists and families who want a fun outing on Christmas, similar to Thanksgiving, when the store is also open and people stop by after watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. Its Las Vegas store will also be open on Christmas, as it has been before.
"We don't expect huge sales on Christmas day," he said. "We recognize the message that Christmas is not about shopping or toys. We just want families to make FAO Schwarz part of their Christmas traditions."