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​Is shopping on Christmas Day the next retail push?

It was once anathema to think of shopping on Thanksgiving Day, but now that's become almost commonplace with the likes of Walmart (WMT) and Macy's (M) opening their doors on the holiday.

What's next? Christmas Day? Actually, yes, according to consulting company LoyaltyOne.

"It's inevitable," said LoyaltyOne managing partner Dennis Armbruster, who predicts that retailers will start opening on Christmas Day within three years. "What Christmas means to some is just changing, and a lot of families don't necessarily celebrate on Christmas Day because of extended family dynamics. Consumers are also highly used to getting what they want, when they want it."

While no major retailers currently open their doors on Christmas Day, there has been slight change in the retail environment over the past few decades given that some grocery stores and convenience stores are now often open for limited hours on the holiday. That shift, and the proliferation of Black Friday sales starting on Thanksgiving, may make consumers more receptive to the idea.

Almost one out of five American consumers said they would take advantage of Christmas Day store hours if retailers opened their doors at 6 p.m. that evening, a survey from LoyaltyOne found. Not surprisingly, younger adults were more willing to shop on the holiday, with about one-third of those between 18 to 24 saying they'd grab their wallets and start shopping.

Retailers are discussing the idea, Armbruster said, although so far they aren't ready to take the plunge.

"There is discussion about whether it's appropriate, and 'is nothing sacred anymore?'" he noted.

But the bottom line -- and increased competition from online rivals -- may change that. Opening on Christmas Day would allow shoppers to get a leg up on post-holiday sales, as well as returns.

"With growing pressure to make sales and make annual numbers, that might be enough" to motivate stores to open on the holiday, he added.

A very Grinch-like downside risk exists for retailers, the study found: About one-quarter of those surveyed said they would not only skip shopping on Christmas, they'd be less likely to patronize stores that opened on the holiday in the future.

"Retailers would risk potentially alienating the general population if they opened on Christmas at this point," he said. "There is a cautionary note to retailers that there are some consumers that are interested, but be careful."

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