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Macy's plans $1M gift card giveaway
Retailers are wooing Black Friday shoppers with free gift cards, breakfast, even free wake-up calls.
November 23, 2005: 11:10 AM EST
Real estate mogul Donald Trump will star in Macy's upcoming national Thanksgiving Day ad blitz on NBC.
Real estate mogul Donald Trump will star in Macy's upcoming national Thanksgiving Day ad blitz on NBC.

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) - Here's a twist to the variety of Black Friday gimmicks retailers are coming up with this year: department store chain Macy's will actually pay shoppers -- with free gift cards, not cash -- to shop at its stores the day after Thanksgiving, according to a report in USA Today.

This is just another indication of how nervous retailers must be as they gear up for the "official" start to the holiday shopping season, which kicks off at the end of the week.

And that's certainly good news for shoppers.

In a frantic rush to get shoppers in the door on Black Friday, one of the most important shopping days of the year, many stores are offering everything from free breakfasts to wake-up calls, and now free gift cards as well.

Macy's $1 million one-day gift card giveaway will also be the company's biggest promotion ever, USA Today said. And as if the "stunt" isn't gimmicky enough already, the retailer has tapped Donald Trump to hype the effort, the report said.

Macy's spokeswoman Ronnie Taffet told CNN/Money that the gift cards will be in denominations of $10, $20, $100, $200 and $500.

"The giveaway starts when our doors open on Black Friday and while supplies last," she said. But the lucky recipients can't redeem the cards until December 5 through December 24.

"The idea is to get people to come back to Macy's later on and shop again," Taffet said.

A national ad airing on NBC during the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade Thursday will show Trump winning a $500 voucher, then flaunting the card to other shoppers, the report said.

"We needed a stunt to break through the (advertising) clutter," Macy's chief creative officer Joe Feczko told the newspaper.

What's the big deal about Black Friday?

The day after Thanksgiving is dubbed Black Friday since it traditionally marks the start of the 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 National Retail Federation, about 130 million shoppers are expected to hit stores to take advantage of special sales and promotions Friday and the following weekend.

Last year, the day after Thanksgiving was the second-biggest sales day of 2004, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. The Saturday before Christmas was the biggest.

Industry observers say retailers are particularly nervous about how the 2005 holiday season will shape up, given the spikes in gas prices over the summer and consumer concerns about inflated home heating bills in the coming weeks.

With all the uncertainty, it's not surprising that stores, especially the department store chains that have struggled to grow sales against the better-performing specialty stores and online retailers, are upping the ante and are looking at creative ways, besides simply slashing prices, to lure shoppers.

Trump, however, has a vested interest in joining forces with Macy's since the retailer, which is owned by Federated Department Stores (Research), sells his signature line of suits, the newspaper said.

Here's what a few other retailers are offering:

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 CNNMoney that the morning meal would be available for a "brief period" to all shoppers on that day.

The retailer is also offering luxury products such as dream vacations, a custom-made Camaro, an 82-carat diamond necklace, Waterford crystal, and designer fragrances and handbags.

Discounter Target (Research) has a few gimmicks of its own.

The retailer is offering pre-recorded celebrity wake-up and tuck-in calls to ensure that shoppers afraid of sleeping through the store's annual two-day Thanksgiving sale can relax.

Target said people can register for both 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 put 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.  Top of page

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