Is Black Friday dead?: Big box retailers opened doors earlier than years past

tporter@lsjournal.comNovember 29, 2013 

  • $810

    Amount in millions that Chicago research firm ShopperTrak stated was generated in retail sales last year on Thanksgiving, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year.

Many Lee’s Summit residents will or have taken advantage of the myriad of special deals and discounts offered by retailers to kick off the holiday shopping season.

When big box retailers such as Best Buy, JCPenney, Macy’s, Target and Toys R Us opened their doors at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night, it continued a trend from years previous.

More and more retail outlets across the country, as well as here locally in Lee’s Summit, have pushed the boundaries of the traditional Black Friday shopping day, usually reserved for strokes barely past midnight on Thanksgiving.

Now, thanks to what retailers claim as “consumer demand,” Black Friday for many this year was held Nov. 28, literally right smack dab in the middle of Thanksgiving Day dinner.

A recent report in the Kansas City Star stated Toys R Us led the “holiday creep” when it decided to open at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night two years ago. Last year, it pushed its opening to 8 p.m. Retailers including Target, Walmart, Sears, and Kmart also all opened Thanksgiving night at either 8 p.m. or 9 p.m. last year, and stayed open through Black Friday.

This year, 8 p.m. seemed to be the modus operandi for big box retailers.

So the questions beg: Is Black Friday as we know it dead? And what affect do businesses opening on Thanksgiving have on Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, shopping days created to counteract Black Friday?

Local business owner Benjamin Aaron and his family faced a unique challenge for Black Friday. Should the locally-owned natural soap making company nestled between Summit Fair shopping center big boxers Macy’s and JCPenney try to compete with the big boys and open early or do they stay the course, know their role as a small business and enjoy family time on the holiday?

Aaron, his mother, Sheila Aaron, and brother, Christopher Walker, owners of Prairie Soap Company at 930-D N.W. Blue Parkway, chose the latter while opening one hour earlier than normal Nov. 29.

“In our situation, it’s a deal where a family member is always here at the store,” Aaron said a few days before the holiday shopping season began. “We can’t celebrate Thanksgiving as an entire family if we have the store opened. That was a pretty easy decision for us.

“For us, we’re going to open earlier than normal on Black Friday, but we don’t really fit the bill in what people are looking for with Black Friday stuff. We opened really early for Black Friday last year and it wasn’t a really big success because people weren’t really looking for us.”

Aaron added the store will host demonstrations from a few local vendors on Small Business Saturday, but concurred the earlier sales push from the retail stores that surround them may have affected business a smidgen.

“People do know about Small Business Saturday,” he said. “They do. But, it really comes down to developing a really smart and competent budget for advertisement because those big box stores – you hear about it constantly and it cost so much money to advertise that. With small businesses, I would say that the biggest gap in your budget comes down to advertising. It’s just hard to advertise because it costs so much.”

Numbers-wise, according to the report in the Star, Chicago research firm ShopperTrak stated retail sales on Thanksgiving were $810 million last year, an increase of 55 percent from the previous year as more stores opened on the holiday.

But business dropped 1.8 percent from the previous year to $11.2 billion on Black Friday, though it still was the biggest shopping day last year, accounting for about 4.3 percent of holiday sales.

Another report stated ComScore, a digital business analytic company, estimated that Cyber Monday sales for 2012 came out to $1.465 billion, a 17 percent increase from 2011. The nearly $1.5 billion haul was roughly a 50 percent increase over Internet sales made on Black Friday.

To compete, Macy’s decided to join the Thanksgiving Day fun. This year was the first time in its 155-year history that the retailer opened on Thanksgiving. In past years, Macy’s opened at midnight. Many stores remained opened for 24 hours straight this year, including the Macy’s Summit Fair location at 900 N.W. Blue Parkway.

In a press release to announce its earlier Black Friday opening, Macy’s officials cited an interest from customers who prefer to start their shopping early and “being consistent with many other retailers” as the impetus for the move.

“Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year and brings with it a level of fun and excitement to our customers around the nation,” Peter Sachse, Macy’s chief stores officer, said in the release. “For Macy’s, it’s important to make this day enjoyable and convenient for everyone, as our customers search for great deals on favorite wish-list items.”

JCPenney, which has a location in Summit Fair at 990 N.W. Blue Parkway, kicked off its nationwide holiday season at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day as well. In a press release to tout the opening, JCPenney officials said with more customers visiting JCPenney for Black Friday than any other time of year, they are going to do “everything they can to provide an incredible shopping experience.”

“From passing out free snow globes and hosting carolers in various stores, to smiling brighter and greeting with more holiday cheer, it’s that level of service that is going to set us apart from the competition,” Tony Bartlett, executive vice president of stores at JCPenney, said in the release.

More power to the big box outlets, Aaron said, and cheers to them.

“I don’t think we can fight fire with fire and open the same time and expect the same output and expect higher revenue generation if we’re directly competing,” he said. “There is pressure there (to open early), but it’s also a deal where we are not losing out on money if we’ve already made that cognizant decision to not have income that day. We didn’t lose anything.”

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