This year, with waning sales, stiff competition and the new trend of comparison shopping via smartphone apps, both brick-and-mortar and online retailers are pulling out all the stops to win over customers.
According to a recent consumer survey by the bargain website DealNews.com, just 2% of Black Friday shoppers will shop solely in stores, while 28% will shop purely online. But retailers aim to change that stat.
New services offered this year by brick-and-mortar stores include: reserved parking spots, complimentary food and drink, survival kits of energy bars, water and coffee coupons, safe stations that will hold people's packages while they peruse and spend, and security guard escorts who will personally carry loads of gifts to parked cars.
At Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, a tailor shop will check coats for a $1, with proceeds collected benefiting the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Salvation Army.
Some of the more upscale stores are even offering VIP lounges where shoppers can nosh, nibble, receive complimentary goodie bags, and relax until they feel rested enough to again face the maddening crowds.
John D. Morris, a senior retail analyst with BMO Capital Markets told The Wall Street Journal of this move by retailers, "It's their way of telling shoppers, "We feel your pain.'"
This Holiday Shopping Could Be Busiest EverAs the economy continues to struggle with high unemployment, an ailing housing market, and tight consumer spending, this holiday season is especially crucial for retailers.
"While the holiday shopping season is off to a relatively slow growth start, if the country experiences good weather conditions, Black Friday 2012 still has an opportunity to exceed $21 billion in total retail sales. This would set a new record for the busiest shopping day in U.S. history, up from $19.3 billons in 2011," Michael McNamara, Spending Pulse's vice president for research and analysis, told CNBC.
The National Retail Federation is predicting some 147 million will shop over the Black Friday weekend, slightly less than the 152 million who said they planned to do so last year.
Getting people to walk into a store is important for retailers on several fronts.
"People tend to make more impulse and inspired purchases in person, especially if they've been made to feel like a first-class shopper," Kit Yarrow, a professor of psychology and marketing at Golden Gate University explained to the WSJ.
And don't forget next Monday, the real shopping bonanza for many. Last year, U.S. shoppers spent a record $1.25 billion on Cyber Monday compared to the $816 million spent online on Black Friday.
Black Thursday BacklashOver the last several years, the eagerness to get a jump start on Black Friday shopping has scores of retailers opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day, to the chagrin of many.
While retailers maintain shoppers are anxious for the extra hours of shopping time, some shoppers are appalled that store owners are trespassing on Thanksgiving Day, taking this family holiday time away from them.
Retail giants Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (NYSE: WMT), Target Corp. (NYSE: TGT) and Sears Holdings Corp. (Nasdaq: SHLD) are among those kicking-off the Black Friday shopping spectacle on Turkey Day.
Wal-Mart plans to open at 8 p.m. EST Thursday.
Company spokeswoman Sarah Spencer told FOX Business Network (FBN), "In talking to our customers, we know the circulars come out after the leftovers are put away and millions of customers are looking to kickstart their shopping on Thanksgiving night."
Target spokeswoman Jenna Reck chimed in, "Our opening time this year (9 p.m. EST) reflects the feedback we have heard from our guests-many prefer to shop following their family gatherings rather than in the very early hours of the morning."
Sears will open at 8 p.m. EST Thanksgiving night and says the opening is a response "to the feedback we heard from our customers." Its Kmart stores, which have been opening on Thanksgiving for several years, will continue the tradition this year opening from 6 a.m. EST to 4 p.m. and then again at 8 p.m.
The backlash on Facebook has been palpable.
One member posted, "Making your employees work Thanksgiving night so you can sell a few more TV's and Lego sets.....yeah, classy move there Target."
A Sears Facebook post read, "I'd like the gift of your employees getting to spend the whole Thanksgiving day with their families, and not opening until Black Friday."
But the earlier store openings are a growing trend that looks to stick. "Stores have been opening earlier and earlier and they wouldn't open on Thanksgiving if there wasn't demand. It's also for competitive reasons; you don't want to lose the potential sales opportunity to someone else," S&P Capital IQ retail analyst Jason Asaeda told FBN.
Related Articles and News:
2011 Holiday Shopping: Retailers Ready for War
U.S. Retailers Hoping Black Friday Sales, Smartphone Apps Fuel Strong Holiday Shopping Season
Brick-and-Mortar Retailers Moving Business Traffic Online as Foot Traffic Declines
Black Friday gets the VIP treatment
"Black Thursday' Blacklash Grows Louder
FOX Business Network:
Some Customers Balk on Black Friday's Creep Into Thanksgiving
The Wall Street Journal:
Trying for a More Upscale Relaxed Black Friday