News Column

What If They Had Black Friday and Nobody Came?

November 23, 2013

By Tom Webb, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

black friday, 2013, deals

Nov. 23--Planning to line up to shop on Black Friday? That's so 2012.

Breaking with tradition, Target plans to put "almost all" of its Black Friday deals online -- more than 12 hours before its doors open at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night.

To analysts, it's a sign of the times; a sign of a cutthroat shopping season; a sign of a generational shift; and a sign that the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving holiday retail fest is quickly migrating from a cold line outdoors to a warm couch and laptop inside.

"Black Friday started years and years ago, before online retailing really started," said Best Buy spokeswoman Amy Von Walter. "The game has completely changed. Now it's all about multichannel retailing."

These days, clever retailers try to reach consumers in as many ways as possible, not just in stores. With an estimated 40 percent of Black Friday weekend business now online, the hunger to add Internet sales is growing stronger than the fear of reducing Black Friday crowds.

"Normally, we tend to see online-only deals, in order to make sure they're not eroding in-store shopping," said Pam Goodfellow, a consumer specialist with Prosper Insights, a retail analytics firm.

"But it's going to be hyper-competitive next weekend, so I think retailers are really trying their best to get shoppers wherever they can," Goodfellow said. "If that means Target is going to offer deals before the stores open, well, anything that helps get shoppers to the site and buying."

Analysts agree that this will take a bite out of Black Friday rituals, such as camping out early, or late on Thanksgiving night, to nab a great deal.

"There's only a segment of the consumer world that does the Black Friday thing," said Jim McComb, a Twin Cities retail analyst. "Some of it is almost cultural now. It's become a tradition."

Target is hardly the only retailer unveiling never-before-seen Black Friday come-ons.

Electronics giant Best Buy already was matching competitors' prices year round. But on Thursday it went further, promising to match prices not just when you buy something, but even weeks afterward, until Dec. 24. (The offer excludes Black Friday weekend.)

"Consumers win this holiday," said Von Walter, the spokeswoman at Richfield-based Best Buy. "Everyone's matching prices, right? So given that there's going to be price parity from retailer to retailer, they can choose to shop based on assortment, convenience, service -- and all of those are areas where we think Best Buy excels."

And Walmart, earlier this week, said it would match some of its rivals' Black Friday deals a full week in advance. Walmart singled out Target, Best Buy and other major chains in its announcement. Those deals started this weekend.

Target is rolling out 15 online-only daily deals starting Sunday. Then on Thanksgiving Day, Target will offer hundreds of Black Friday deals online "in the early morning hours."

"By offering advance access to deals at Target.com and opening our stores earlier, we are making it easier to guests to build a Black Friday ritual that works for them," Kathee Tesija, Minneapolis-based Target's executive vice president for merchandising, said in a statement.

There's also a generational shift. Younger consumers are far more apt to shop online -- and that's a prime demographic group for Target.

"They're very heavy in Generation X shoppers," Goodfellow said of Target.

At the website Definitive Deals.com, they've noted a shift in Black Friday bargains, as well.

In previous years, deals followed shoppers, who went both in stores and online. But increasingly, "more people are going to shop online only ... which is a huge shift," said Rob Gough, the site's president.

"In the past, there have been better deals in store than online," he added. Now, retailers have "kind of adjusted their traditional ways."

Despite the changing rhythms, the social side of Black Friday still lives.

"Black Friday weekend is still a big deal and still a tradition to a lot of shoppers, getting together with family and friends," Goodfellow said.

Tom Webb can be reached at 651-228-5428. Follow him at twitter.com/TomWebbMN.

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(c)2013 the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.)

Visit the Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.) at www.twincities.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Original headline: What if they had a Black Friday and no one lined up?



Source: Saint Paul Pioneer Press (MN)


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