|Target is recruiting Kermit the Frog in its Black Friday sales drive.|
NEW YORK (CNN/Money) -
Retailers must be nervous this holiday season. And that's good news for shoppers.
In a frantic rush to get shoppers in the door on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving and one of the most important shopping days of the year, many stores are offering everything from free breakfasts to wake-up calls.
Sam's Club, a division of Wal-Mart (Research), will open stores at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving and roll out a free breakfast trolley to its members. A spokesman for Sam's Club told CNN/Money that the morning meal would be available for a "brief period" to all shoppers on that day.
Discounter Target (Research) has a few gimmicks of its own, too.
The retailer is offering pre-recorded celebrity wake-up and tuck in calls to insure that shoppers afraid of sleeping through the store's annual two-day Thanksgiving sale can relax.
Target said people can register for the both the services beginning Wednesday on the company's Web site and choose who calls them and at what time.
Model Carolyn Murphy, country singer Brad Paisley and Kermit the Frog are among the eclectic line-up of "stars" who will be featured on the calls, the company announced Wednesday.
If you want a tuck-in call, opt for a call featuring "soothing harp sounds" to lull you to sleep, the company said. Other tuck-in options include a herd of baa-ing sheep, a bedtime story from grandma and a guy who is so boring that even insomniacs will be lulled into a deep slumber.
The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed Black Friday since it traditionally marks the start of holiday shopping season, the period when retailers finally move out of the red and into the black.
Just how popular is Black Friday with shoppers?
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), the day after Thanksgiving was the second-biggest sales day of 2004. The Saturday before Christmas was the biggest.
The National Retail Federation estimates that 133 million shoppers hit stores last year on Black Friday and the following weekend.
Industry observers says retailers are particularly nervous about how the 2005 holiday season will shape up, given the head winds of spikes in gas prices over the summer and consumer concerns about inflated home heating bills in the coming weeks.
Given the uncertainty, it's not surprising that stores are upping the ante and are looking at other creative ways besides simply slashing prices to lure shoppers.
Wal-Mart CFO Tom Schoewe told the Wall Street Journal Tuesday that the retailer was offering luxury products such as "dream vacations, a custom-made Camaro, an 82-carat diamond necklace, Waterford crystal, and designer fragrances and handbags.
Sam's Club Web site Wednesday revealed a few of the "Once-In-a-Lifetime Dream Packages" available.
These include a $40,000 trip for four to the Dayton 500 including pit and garage credentials and a meet and greet with an endorsed driver and a $48,000 New Zealand wine adventure for two.