Post-Thanksgiving deals no longer wait for FridayWhat used to be Black Friday is taking on shades of Thanksgiving gray.
By: John Lundy, Duluth News Tribune
What used to be Black Friday is taking on shades of Thanksgiving gray.
Economist Bob Hoffman doesn’t see that changing.
“The only thing that I think is a little surprising is that it took so long for this to happen,” said Hoffman, associate professor of economics at the College of St. Scholastica. “There was almost this implicit agreement that we just wouldn’t open up (stores) on Thanksgiving. I don’t know who broke that first. But once someone did, all the stores had to respond.”
Indeed, a growing number of retailers are pushing the start of the Christmas-shopping season into Thanksgiving Day, for an event someone dubbed Gray Thanksgiving. Numerous retailers nationwide announced their shopping frenzy will begin at 9 p.m. on Thursday. Among early starts in the Twin Ports, Sears at Miller Hill Mall will open at 8 p.m., and Shopko, Gander Mountain and Target stores at 9 p.m.
Kmart stores in West Duluth and Superior will continue a recent trend of opening during the day on Thanksgiving. Hours are 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday, and then the stores will reopen from 8 p.m. Thursday to 3 a.m. on Friday. After another break, they’ll open once again at 5 a.m. on Friday, according to personnel at the two stores. Store managers weren’t available for comment.
Kohl’s and Best Buy are opening at midnight, although Best Buy will be offering “door-buster” tickets to people lined up as early as two hours before the opening time, according to their website.
The mall itself, and most of its 128 retail outlets, will open at midnight, said Machelle Kendrick, director of marketing and business development. That’s up from 4 a.m. last year.
But Kendrick said that although some individual retailers might open earlier, as Sears is this year, she doesn’t think the mall itself will ever open sooner than midnight.
“Actually getting into Thanksgiving, I feel there’s too many people who would stand up and say, ‘That’s too much,’ ” Kendrick said. “We do appreciate Thanksgiving, especially in the Northland.”
Hoffman isn’t so sure. He doesn’t see any stopping the shopping-on-Thanksgiving genie now that it has been let out of the bottle, he said.
“If you don’t open up early and your competitor does, you lose some sales,” Hoffman said. “There’s just no doubt about it.”
Hoffman compared the early opening competition to an arms race. There are no winners, he said, because there’s no evidence that the total amount of money consumers spend is greater with extended hours. But once one retailer pushes its hours earlier, other retailers feel they have to join them or lose sales.
But at least one major retailer with a Duluth outlet is cutting against the grain this year. J.C. Penney — which goes by jcp these days — will open at 6 a.m. on Friday, two hours later than last year.
According to DallasNews.com, company CEO Ron Johnson sent an e-mail to customers Monday evening explaining the policy. “I know that some retailers are opening on Thanksgiving this year,” he wrote. “But spending Thanksgiving with family is one of America’s greatest traditions. Since jcp was founded on the Golden Rule, I’m proud to honor this tradition by keeping our stores closed on this special day.”
In addition to the big stores such as Sears and Penney’s, the mall includes many smaller retailers, Kendrick said. Some of them are preparing for their earliest starts ever.
Helzberg Diamonds will open at midnight Thursday for the first time, said Dick Bellamy, who has managed the store for 31 years. Last year, the store didn’t open until 7 a.m. on Black Friday.
“Last year, I was still old-school,” he said.
Bellamy will be at work at midnight along with two or three employees, all of whom volunteered for the shift, he said. He figures they’ll still be filled up from Thanksgiving dinner at the start of the shift, but they’ll have sloppy joes in the back room for later on.
Kendrick, who also will start her shift at midnight, is encouraging shoppers and workers to do what she will do: Bring along juice boxes and energy bars. “You do have to have an energy boost throughout the evening,” she said.
Or they could stop at Five Guys Burgers and Fries, also at the mall, which will be open from 10 p.m. Thursday until 2 a.m. Friday. The restaurant will reopen at 11 a.m. Store manager Grace Riley, who will be on hand with four employees, said the 9 a.m. Friday opening time last year didn’t work very well.
“We came to the conclusion that everybody’s pretty much done shopping by that time,” Riley said.
Riley said she discovered the need for late-night eats during some of her own Black Friday shopping experiences. The retail frenzy does cut into Thanksgiving, she said, but she’s philosophical about that.
“In reality, we’re in a new century,” Riley said. “Times change, and we’ve got to roll with it.”
But not everyone will roll with it. Asked if he’ll go shopping on Thanksgiving, the economist Hoffman said, “Absolutely not.”
How about Friday?
“I can’t imagine getting anywhere near that kind of madness,” Hoffman said.