Black Friday creeps into Thanksgiving Day
Nov 17, 2012 (Menafn - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --For more than two decades, Julie Griebenow lined up in the early morning darkness outside a retail store -- usually Toys "R" Us -- on the day after Thanksgiving.
But last year, when retailers began moving up the starting times for Black Friday, she found herself queuing with other shoppers at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving. And it looks like those early-morning starts for her annual shopping adventure are gone for good.
She's not thrilled that she now has to be up all night to shop instead of getting up early to shop all day. But that won't keep her away from the excitement and doorbuster deals of Black Friday.
"I love it," said Griebenow, 38, of Milwaukee. "I truly love it."
Retailers love it, too.
The National Retail Federation estimates consumers will spend 568.1 billion this holiday season, about 4.1% more than last year. For some retailers, the Christmas shopping season can generate as much as 40% of annual sales, although the industry average is a bit less than a fifth of sales.
Holiday season sales have increased 3.5% a year over the past 10 years on average, even though they dropped 4.4% during the recession year of 2008.
The economy still isn't growing very fast, and the dreaded "fiscal cliff" of automatic tax increases and government spending cuts is looming unless Congress and the president resolve it. But that won't keep shoppers away from what, for many, has become a tradition of going out for the biggest mass bargain hunt of the year.
"I have a 5% increase (in sales) penciled in thanks to the slightly higher employment and income numbers we've seen," said economist Brian Jacobsen, chief portfolio strategist for Wells Fargo Funds Management in Menomonee Falls and an associate professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College.
"While people are concerned about the fiscal cliff, I don't think the worry will hurt spending," he said. "Consumer confidence and sentiment numbers have been improving, despite the fiscal cliff talk. Until people actually feel it in the pocketbook, I don't think they'll cut back their spending."
Thrill of the hunt
Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst for the NPD Group Inc. in Port Washington, N.Y, put it this way: "Remember, shopping is a leisure activity, it's a form of entertainment, it's a sport for some people."
This is never more so than during the Black Friday shopping event. But for many consumers this year -- some now armed with smartphone apps as shopping aids -- competing will mean pulling an all-nighter.
In keeping with the early-rising hunters and fishermen to whom it caters, Gander Mountain may be setting the pace among area chain retailers with a 9 a.m. opening on Thanksgiving Day. Sears, Toys "R" Us and Walmart are set to start the holiday season at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving and Target kicks things off at 9 p.m.
Even retailers that won't open until Black Friday don't intend to waste any time before unlocking the doors. Kohl's, Boston Store and Macy's all open at midnight.
Some retailers, such as Kohl's and Boston Store, are offering doorbuster deals online as early as Wednesday.
Walmart is among those promoting separate doorbuster events only hours apart. After Walmart's in-store specials first become available at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, a 10 p.m. electronics sale will feature items such as a Vizio 60-inch, 720-pixel TV with built-in Wi-Fi for 688 and Nook Color 8-gigabyte tablet for 99.
If shoppers hang around Walmart until 5 a.m. Black Friday -- or shop elsewhere and come back -- they'll find another round of sale items unveiled, such as a Sharp 70-inch, 1,080-pixel HDTV for 1,798 and a Better Homes and Gardens deluxe recliner for 199.
Fight for first dollar
The start of the Black Friday event is earlier this year than in 2011 because retailers covet first crack at the consumer, Cohen said.
"Because of all the success that we had last year with extending hours, it was the natural thing to try to beat each other to the punch," Cohen said. "They all want to be the first retailer open because the first dollar is the biggest dollar. When the consumer has a full wallet of money and unlimited spending -- within their budget -- that's the most valuable consumer. So they're all going to fight for that."
Black Friday sales now extend well beyond Friday, too.
"We've been watching what I call the 'graying of Black Friday' for the last two years, where it's no longer Friday," Cohen said. "It became the weekend, and then a few days after the weekend. We've literally seen what was a day turn into a weekend and then turn into a week."
For shoppers like Griebenow, however, most of the shopping will be done in the first 12 hours after the store doors open. She will be ready -- ads in hand in the order she plans to proceed -- to compete for her top-priority sale items. She even expects to take last minute orders via text message from relatives who know she'll be out there in the dark.
Griebenow has no doubt she will enjoy it.
"I just think it's so much fun," she said. "It's the holiday atmosphere of it all. The joy of shopping for kids, shopping for my parents, shopping for my nieces and nephews. I really like it a lot."
BLACK FRIDAY OPENINGS
Sears: 8 p.m. Thursday
Toys "R" Us: 8 p.m. Thursday
Walmart: 8 p.m. Thursday
Target: 9 p.m. Thursday
Boston Store: Midnight
JC Penney: 6 a.m. Friday
According to the National Retail Federation:
Sales will total 586.1 billion, up 4.1% from 2011.
The average consumer will spend 749.51 on gifts, decor, greeting cards and other items, up from 740.57 last year.
Total spending on decorations will reach 6.9 billion.
Almost 52% will shop online, up from about 47% in 2011.
Six in 10 consumers would like to receive gift cards.
___ (c)2012 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Visit the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
at www.jsonline.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
Copyright (C) 2012, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel