OLD Media Moves

Happy Thanksgiving and be careful out there

November 23, 2012

Posted by Liz Hester

As everyone with a pulse knows, shopping during Thanksgiving weekend is the make-it-or-break-it time for retailers. It sets the stage for the discounts they’ll offer (or not) for the rest of the holiday shopping season.

And every day has a name. Thanksgiving, typically reserved for turkey and football, is now turning into a huge shopping day. There’s Black Friday, the day after turkey day, which is typically when retailers make their numbers for the year. Now, American Express is sponsoring Small Business Saturday where members can register their credit cards to receive a $25 credit for buying from a small business on Saturday. Then there’s Cyber Monday, when all those unlucky enough to need to continue shopping take their lists to work and scour the web for gifts.

Retailers have different strategies for attracting the finite (and often dwindling) amount consumers are planning to spend this holiday season. Here’s a story from the Wall Street Journal:

On the day after Thanksgiving, Foot Locker Inc. plans to roll out its most expensive shoes—at full price. Crocs Inc. will be doing the opposite, embracing margin-sapping price cuts, after learning a harsh lesson when it tried to stand up against discounts.

Target Corp., meanwhile, will lean on exclusive merchandise to thwart price-comparisons, while Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is offering special discounts not just at its brick-and-mortar locations but simultaneously on its website.

It’s Black Friday, a moment of truth for retailers’ holiday strategizing.

All are hoping to avoid misfires during a crucial selling season. Last year the two-month period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s accounted for nearly a quarter of annual sales for department stores, discounters and other chains, according to the National Retail Federation.

Anxious to preserve their sales in a hyper-competitive market, retailers are taking some chances. They face a host of pressures, including changing shopping habits due to technology and an uncertain economic climate, complicated by Washington’s decision-making gridlock and possible new tax increases.

Then, there’s the sane approach of New England states, many of which ban stores from opening on holidays in laws that date back to the original settlers. Here’s an excerpt from the New York Times story:

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers — Sears, Target and Toys “R” Us among them — announced this month that they would be moving up their predawn Black Friday door-buster sales to Thanksgiving Day or moving up their existing Thanksgiving sales even earlier on Thursday. Walmart, which has already been open on Thanksgiving for many years, is advancing its bargain specials to 8 p.m. Thursday from 10 p.m.

But in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, the stores will sit dark until the wee hours of Friday. Even Walmart will not open in Maine until just after midnight Friday or in Massachusetts or Rhode Island until 1 a.m.

New England’s blue laws were put down by early settlers to enforce proper behavior on Sundays. (The origin of the term is unclear. Some have said the laws were printed on blue paper, while others have said the word “blue” was meant to disparage those like the “blue noses” who imposed rigid moral codes on others.)

Over decades, many of those laws — which banned commerce, entertainment and the sale of alcohol, among other things — were tossed aside or ignored, or exemptions were granted. In some cases, the statutes were extended to holidays and barred retailers specifically from operating on Thanksgiving or Christmas.

Even workers are pushing back on having to work on traditional days off. This is from the Times story:

Nationwide, a protest is developing against Thanksgiving Day sales. Workers at some stores have threatened to strike, saying the holiday openings were disrupting their family time. Online petitions have drawn hundreds of thousands of signatures protesting the move. The stores say that many of their workers have volunteered to work on the holiday, when they will get extra pay, and that consumers wanted to shop early. It is not yet clear what effect the protests might have.

Those workers not only have to deal with being at work, but also the hordes of often aggressive and unruly shoppers. Each year there are stories of stampedes to get the hottest toy or the biggest discount on a new shirt. As USA Today reports, stores are spending more money on security to keep everyone safe.

Other retailers use a variety of tactics, ranging from in-store asset-protection workers to hiring off-duty police officers to help manage crowds.

Managers at malls and retailers have been meeting this week to make last-minute preparations for Black Friday and to train workers on how to defuse dangerous situations and avoid safety issues, officials said.

“The safety of our shoppers is our top priority,” said Neal Kleinman, vice president of property management for Macerich, which owns and operates malls in the western United States.

Many will open at midnight Friday. Like Walmart, the properties try to dissipate crowds and may even let people trickle in to the property early to avoid stampedes.

Also, like Walmart, they rely heavily on an increased police presence.

So, good luck out there holiday shoppers. Between the deals, police, mobs and disgruntled workers, here’s hoping you find everything you need and retailers get the boost they’re looking for. You’ll find me on the couch watching sports. Competitive shopping just isn’t my idea of a good time.




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