For holiday shoppers Black Friday represented the Super Bowl of retail days.
They planned and plotted destinations with military precision. At stake: Getting slashed prices for holiday purchases as the retail season starts the Friday after Thanksgiving. Those shoppers, who on normal nights wouldn’t leave their slumber at 2 a.m. unless their house was on fire, readily set their alarms for wee hours of the night. And in the pre-dawn chill of a late Minnesota fall, they swarmed stores as though storming a castle.
This year, for a number of retailers, Black Friday will be different. This year Black Friday is more about staying up late than getting up early. This year, nearly before the Thanksgiving turkey has been turned into cold leftovers, Black Friday will be in full swing.
Not all shoppers — who annually make this Black Friday an event with family and friends that rivals hunting shack traditions — are thrilled with the change. Although the time has been getting earlier and earlier in recent years.
Opening in the wee hours of Black Friday has been driven by competitive retailers, who offer prizes and discounted doorbusters to bring shoppers to their doors. During the recession, the discounts were deep as shoppers clung to essentials and reduced spending.
Last year, retail store supervisors in the lakes area said they wouldn’t be surprised to see the opening hour move to midnight, a move already accomplished in larger markets. In recent years, opening times have been rolled back as stores tried to outdo each other.
Last year when Kohl’s moved its opening up to 3 a.m. for the first time instead of 4 a.m., J.C. Penney followed suit. Two years ago, Best Buy opened at 5 a.m. Traffic, a trickle at 3 a.m. on Black Friday, became a flood by 6 a.m. This year is likely to be a little different.
In the Brainerd lakes area, this Black Friday will find a mix of opening hours. Best Buy will join the group of retailers, including Target, Walmart, Herberger’s, Bath & Body Works and Kohl’s, now opening at midnight on Nov. 25.
Kay Pihlaja, J.C. Penney store manager in Baxter, said Penney’s has heard the backlash from customers and as a company decided to stay with the 3 a.m. opening.
In a sampling of other opening times in the Brainerd and Baxter area, Sears will open at 4 a.m. Home Depot and Vanity and Maurices will open at 5 a.m. Menards, Mills Fleet Farm and Jo-Ann Fabrics open at 6 a.m. Times vary even within the Westgate Mall with Tradehome Shoes opening at 3 a.m. and Mar-Jons sportswear opening along with other mall retailers at 7 a.m.
Now retailers will have to determine if the crowds arrive at the new start times and whether the sales are there and how that compares with added staffing costs as employees come in earlier or stay later.
And shoppers will have to decide how they’ll manage the new Black Friday.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5852.