Retailers Making it Easier to Shop Until You Drop on Black Friday

Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving notable for its power shopping – just got longer as several leading national retailers announced plans to open at midnight. Instead of sleeping off that turkey coma, throngs of shoppers will be waiting in line at Macy’s and Target, both of which will open four hours earlier than normal.

“We’ve been looking at our hours and demand as the holiday approaches and we think the customer will respond,” Macy’s spokesman Jim Sluzewski said.  “In dollars and cents, it probably gives the retailers that are opening extra early another fraction of a day’s sales,” said Scott Rothbort, finance professor at Seton Hall’s Stillman School of Business.  “But it does engender publicity and in this environment that is very valuable.”

“People want to shop through the night,” said Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president of marketing.  She said the expanded hours were in response to customers’ requests.  One year ago, Macy’s opened eight stores at midnight, and the rest at 4 a.m.  According to Reardon, the midnight openings were highly successful.

Retailers have been extending their Black Friday hours for several years; additionally they’re trying to outdo each other by announcing some of their best deals weeks in advance.  They also are responding to shoppers who strategize bargain-hunting weeks in advance.  Already, Black Friday circulars are starting to be leaked to deal sites like Blackfriday.com and Blackfriday2011.com. Just a few years ago, stores were secretive about their discounts and hours until a few days before Thanksgiving.

Some retail industry experts think the early openings are a bad idea. The news is not good for workers, many of whom are desperate for jobs.  “What these retailers have to worry about is: Are they going to have an employee revolt?” said retail analyst Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group.  “You could be pushing people to the limit of what they are willing to accept.”  Beemer’s research suggests this Black Friday will be the biggest ever, with 50 percent or more of consumers heading out to shop the day after Thanksgiving.  And for the sake of the craziest shoppers, this year’s deals should be worth losing sleep over.

Writing in the International Business Times, Cavan Sieczkowski said that “But with the current unstable economic climate, stores are planning ahead for Black Friday sales and hoping that an early start will allow them to capitalize on increased consumer spending. On Black Friday 2010, retail spending hit $10.69 billion in one day.”

“Consumers are really walking a tightrope here.  They don’t have much room and it’s easy for them to lose balance with very modest shifts in hiring, the cost of food and everything,” said Steve Blitz, senior economist, ITG Investment Research in New York.

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