Each year the holiday shopping season kicks off with the huge savings and massive crowds of Black Friday — or is it Black Thursday?
The unofficial holiday for all things retail is the single most important day of the year for merchants, though increases in online sales and disappointing predictions have some jumping the gun.
The National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.9 percent growth in holiday retail sales over last year, a disappointing forecast that has some retailers opening their doors early.
“So a lot of the stores such as Macy’s and Target — Macy’s for the first time, Target has been doing this for a couple of years — will be open on Thanksgiving day itself,” said consumer expert Audrey Guskey, who is an associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University. “So the fact these stores are opening in the evening is going to have an effect upon Black Friday sales because a lot of people that would get up early in the morning to shop on Black Friday are now going to start shopping on Thursday.”
According to Guskey, this “Christmas Creep” is likely to be something that shoppers should expect to see more of each year. Retailers have found that whenever they give shoppers the opportunity to get in the door a little earlier and avoid the midnight shopping hours they tend to spend more in their stores.
“By adding the marketing component to it, it sort of gives a black eye, you could say, to the holiday season, especially for retailers,” Guskey said. “But once the competition started opening stores, all the other retailers had to follow suit because they really had no choice.”
Longer hours are also due in part to the growing popularity of online shopping which has been drawing crowds away from the traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Guskey said some experts are predicting a 15-20 percent growth in online shopping this year as consumers are becoming more comfortable with buying their gifts from home.
Many e-retailers even offer Black Friday deals of their own, or save the discounts for the following “Cyber Monday,” an online iteration of the retail holiday.