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Archive for November, 2012

24
Nov

Earlier Shopping Season A Gift To Retailers

Copyright © 2012 National Public Radio. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I’m Audie Cornish. It’s official, another holiday shopping season has begun and it’s already been a good weekend for retailers. Thirty-thousand shoppers lined up at Minnesota’s Mall of America hoping to score big deals. The day’s not even over and Wal-Mart says so far it’s had its best Black Friday to date. NPR’s Sonari Glinton reports that’s because the shopping holiday began early this year, very early.

SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: I’m standing outside of a Walmart in Fountain, Colorado, and the parking lot is jam-packed. Cars are roaming around looking for parking spaces. Inside, there are hundreds and hundreds of people searching for Black Friday deals. The thing is it’s 8:30 at night on Thanksgiving.

CHRISSY MARXER: I mean, you save a few dollars, but it’s just fun to – it’s fun to be out.

GLINTON: Chrissy Marxer was at the Walmart with her friends. She says she doesn’t think she’s happy about things starting on Thanksgiving Day.

MARXER: I really don’t think I’m happy about that. You know, it’s not the same. It’s not the same eating and then rushing to the store, you know?

GLINTON: Did you finish up quicker?

MARXER: No, we enjoyed everything. We did. We had dessert. We enjoyed it. And then we took off.

GLINTON: So why are retailers going through the cost and headache of opening on Thanksgiving?

MARHSAL COHEN: What’s happening is retailers, and particularly the brick and mortar stores, have recognized that they need to get into the 21st century, which is ultimately retail 24/7.

GLINTON: Marhsal Cohen is a retail analyst with the NPD Group. Cohen says opening up on Thanksgiving and having a few blockbuster sales items helps regular retailers compete with online. He says it’s called Black Friday because it’s the day stores are supposed to become profitable for the year, not because consumers are actually saving money.

Black Friday doesn’t always necessarily represent the best deals for the holiday season. First off, the best deals are always after the Christmas holiday, not necessarily before.

Customers can get even better deals if they wait a bit. While many tried out the deals at night, Amanda Jones says she her friend Jordan Honea stuck to tradition and came out to shop in Lakewood, Colorado, this morning.

AMANDA JONES: It more of the ritual, you know, of actually coming out together, getting up early.

JORDAN HONEA: It’s fun, yeah.

JONES: It’s like a big scavenger hunt because you come out really early and it’s still dark out. So there’s something exciting and adventurous about it.

GLINTON: Honea says sticking to tradition paid off for them today.

HONEA: It’s different because it’s just, you know, a lot more calm. It’s not the craziness where the lines are, you know, wrapped around and people trampling each other. I mean it’s really different to go out at 6 o’clock this morning and go to the school and be able to calmly find your things.

GLINTON: And then why do you think that is?

HONEA: Just because the stores opened at 9 o’clock last night instead of, you know, all of them opening up at four or 5 o’clock in the morning like past years.

GLINTON: Many retailers say opening up last night has paid off for them as well. Some like Wal-Mart say they’ve already had record weekends. But economists like Chris Christopher of IHS Global Insight say they don’t expect the records to continue throughout the season.

CHRIS CHRISTOPHER: Many of the chain stores start their promotions almost during about Halloween, if not before. And it’s still not the most important shopping day. It’s still near Christmas Day, a couple of days before.

GLINTON: Christopher says Black Friday or Black Thursday is not about consumers anymore. Now, it’s really about stores competing with each other.

CHRISTOPHER: They all have to participate. But it’s not as important as a single shopping day as it used to be.

GLINTON: So Black Friday isn’t as important as it used to be, and you can’t get the best deals. But it still can be fun, right? Sonari Glinton, NPR News, Denver.

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24
Nov

Why ‘Black Friday’ Has Dark Roots

People waited in line to make purchases at a Macy’s department store in New York during last year’s “Black Friday” shopping weekend.


Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

People waited in line to make purchases at a Macy's department store in New York during last year's "Black Friday" shopping weekend.

People waited in line to make purchases at a Macy’s department store in New York during last year’s “Black Friday” shopping weekend.

Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images

Black Friday may not yet be a bigger holiday than Thanksgiving, but it certainly has a bigger marketing budget. Retailers may have needed it to overcome the term’s long and negative history.

And that’s well before you get to talk of striking Walmart workers, or violence involving impatient shoppers in recent years.

Older generations may still associate “Black Friday” with the stock market crash of 1929, which triggered the Great Depression. But the connotation of financial distress dates back even further, to the collapse of the U.S. gold market on Sept. 24, 1869.

“The term Black Friday survived to be used again and again for various disasters and unfortunate events, including a 1910 incident in England where police assaulted several hundred suffragettes at a protest,” notes Richard Townley in The Washington Times.

What does any of this have to do with shopping? Perhaps nothing. But even the earliest references to Black Friday as a post-Thanksgiving retail spree were negative.

The term appears to have originated about 50 years ago among police in Philadelphia inconvenienced by downtown crowds kicking off the holiday shopping season. Those crowds added to congestion from traffic in town for the Army-Navy football game, which in that era was generally played in Philly the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Black Friday “was not a happy term,” department store historian Michael J. Lisicky told CBS News last year. “The stores were just too crowded, the streets were crowded, the buses and the police were just on overcall and extra duty.”

Even a sales manager at the department store Gimbels in Philadelphia back in 1975 acknowledged the term’s negative connotation and link to traffic headaches. “That’s why the bus drivers and cab drivers call today ‘Black Friday,’ ” she told The Associated Press, while watching a policeman struggle with a crowd of jaywalkers. “They think in terms of the headaches it gives them.”

“Prior to the mid-1980s, the term ‘Black Friday’ was always used for some calamitous event,” columnist Paul Mulshine wrote in New Jersey’s Star-Ledger. “All of that negativity makes sense. ‘Black Friday’ has a naturally gloomy sound to it.”

Of course retailers have long since embraced it, holding that the “black” in “Black Friday” is borrowed from accounting, meaning they hope to get “in the black” for the year by dint of holiday sales.

Some accounts credit this meaning to Peter Strawbridge, president of Strawbridge & Clothier, a now-defunct retailer that was based in Philadelphia.

But it doesn’t seem that Strawbridge himself liked “Black Friday” much.

“It sounds like the end of the world, and we really like the day,” he told The Philadelphia Inquirer back in 1984. “If anything, we should call it ‘Green Friday.’ “

24
Nov

On This Year’s Black Friday, Minutes Matter

This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.

Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday partly because of retail folklore that it’s traditionally when merchants turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That created as two separate waves of shoppers — one on Thanksgiving and the other on Black Friday.

By the time Lori Chandler, 54, and her husband, Sam, 55, reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C. early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy. In fact, they had been holiday shopping since midnight.

“It’s a tradition,” Lori said as she looked at some toys she bought for her four grandchildren. Sam, smiling, agreed: “We’ve learned over the years, you have to stand in line early and pray.”

Elizabeth Garcia, a sales rep from the Bronx borough of New York City, decided on a later shopping start at about 3:30 a.m. at Toys R Us in New York’s Times Square. Garcia, who has three children ages three, five and seven, said she specifically decided on the later time to avoid the crowds on Thanksgiving when the store opened at 8 p.m. She believes that was the best decision: Last year, Garcia almost got into a fight over a Tinker Bell couch, but this year things were much calmer.

“This year I wasn’t about to kill people,” she said.

The earlier hours are an effort by stores to make shopping as convenient as possible for Americans, who they fear won’t spend freely during the two-month holiday season in November and December because of economic uncertainty. Many shoppers are worried about high unemployment and a package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” that will take effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then.

At the same time, Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on websites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smartphones, laptops and tablet computers from just about anywhere. That puts added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes.

That’s becoming more difficult: the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year’s growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.

As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores. Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or at midnight on Black Friday. In addition to expanding their hours, many also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.

“Every retailer wants to beat everyone else,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a research firm based in Charleston, S.C. “Shoppers love it.”

Indeed, some holiday shoppers seemed to find stores’ earlier hours appealing. Julie Hansen, a spokeswoman at Mall of America in Minneapolis, said 30,000 people showed up for the mall’s midnight opening, compared with 20,000 last year. She noted that shoppers are coming in waves, and sales aren’t just being shifted around.

“This is additional dollars,” Hansen said.

Hansen said stores that didn’t participate in the midnight opening last year learned a lesson. Last year, 100 of the 520 Mall of America tenants opened their doors at midnight. This year, that figure doubled.

About 11,000 shoppers were in lines wrapped around Macy’s flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square when it opened at midnight on Black Friday. That’s up from an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 shoppers who showed up the store’s midnight opening last year.

Joan Riedewald, a private aide for the elderly, and her four children ages six to 18, were among them. By that time, she already had spent about $100 at Toys R Us, which opened at 8 p.m., and planned to spend another $500 at Macy’s before heading to Old Navy.

“I only shop for sales,” she said.

Carey Maguire, 33, and her sister Caitlyn Maguire, 21, showed up at the same Target about two hours before it opened. Their goal was to buy several Nook tablet computers, which were on sale for $49. But while waiting in line they were also using their iPhone to do some online buying at rival stores.

“If you’re going to spend, I want to make it worth it,” said Caitlyn Maguire, a college student.

By the afternoon on Thanksgiving, there were 11 shoppers in a four-tent encampment outside a Best Buy store near Ann Arbor, Mich., that opened at midnight. The purpose of their wait? A $179 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Jackie Berg, 26, of Ann Arbor, arrived first with her stepson and a friend Wednesday afternoon, seeking three of the televisions. The deal makes the TVs $240 less than their normal price, so Berg says that she’ll save more than $700.

“We’ll miss the actual being there with family, but we’ll have the rest of the weekend for that,” she said.

But some shoppers decided to stick to Black Friday. Nicole Page of Bristol, Conn., shopped with her sister at a Wal-Mart in Manchester, Conn., at about 4:45 a.m. on Black Friday. Page, who recently finished school and started working as a nurse, bought an electric fireplace for $200 that she said was originally $600. Her shopping cart also had candy canes, a nail clipper for her dog and other stocking stuffers.

Page said she and her sister stuck with the Black Friday tradition; They’ve shopped in the early morning of Black Friday in previous years.

“We try to make a tradition of it. It’s kind of exciting,” she said.

24
Nov

Don’t Like Shopping? Take Pictures Instead

  • Buy, 2010

  • Pictures with Santa, 2010

  • Osama Bin Shopping, 2011

  • Ross, 2009

  • Hangers, 2010

  • Fixtures, 2010

  • Big Buck Hunter, 2011

  • Christmas Tree Shopping, 2011

  • Target, 2011

If you like photographing, but are somehow not enticed by long lines, getting elbowed in the ribs and cut off by shopping carts in pursuit of a red tag sale, Picture Black Friday might give you another excuse to get out there today.

“I think there are enough people turning the economy over,” says Sandy Carson. “I’d rather just make photos and be an observer.”

This is the fourth year that Carson has participated in the crowd-sourced photojournalism project. Picture Black Friday, the website states, “aims to revisit and analyze a combination of forces — a worsening economy, financial desperation, excitement, fear and a distinctly American cultural tradition — that culminate the morning after Thanksgiving.”

Whether you’re shopping or shooting, good luck out there. I’ll be eating leftovers.

24
Nov

On This Year’s Black Friday, Minutes Matter

This year’s Black Friday shoppers were split into two distinct groups: those who wanted to fall into a turkey-induced slumber and those who’d rather shop instead.

Stores typically open in the wee hours of the morning on the day after Thanksgiving that’s named Black Friday partly because of retail folklore that it’s traditionally when merchants turn a profit for the year. But after testing how shoppers would respond to earlier hours last year, stores such as Target and Toys R Us this year opened as early as Thanksgiving evening. That created as two separate waves of shoppers — one on Thanksgiving and the other on Black Friday.

By the time Lori Chandler, 54, and her husband, Sam, 55, reached the Wal-Mart in Greenville, S.C. early Friday, they had already hit several stores, including Target and Best Buy. In fact, they had been holiday shopping since midnight.

“It’s a tradition,” Lori said as she looked at some toys she bought for her four grandchildren. Sam, smiling, agreed: “We’ve learned over the years, you have to stand in line early and pray.”

Elizabeth Garcia, a sales rep from the Bronx borough of New York City, decided on a later shopping start at about 3:30 a.m. at Toys R Us in New York’s Times Square. Garcia, who has three children ages three, five and seven, said she specifically decided on the later time to avoid the crowds on Thanksgiving when the store opened at 8 p.m. She believes that was the best decision: Last year, Garcia almost got into a fight over a Tinker Bell couch, but this year things were much calmer.

“This year I wasn’t about to kill people,” she said.

The earlier hours are an effort by stores to make shopping as convenient as possible for Americans, who they fear won’t spend freely during the two-month holiday season in November and December because of economic uncertainty. Many shoppers are worried about high unemployment and a package of tax increases and spending cuts known as the “fiscal cliff” that will take effect in January unless Congress passes a budget deal by then.

At the same time, Americans have grown more comfortable shopping on websites that offer cheap prices and the convenience of being able to buy something from smartphones, laptops and tablet computers from just about anywhere. That puts added pressure on brick-and-mortar stores, which can make up to 40 percent of their annual revenue during the holiday shopping season, to give consumers a compelling reason to leave their homes.

That’s becoming more difficult: the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, estimates that overall sales in November and December will rise 4.1 percent this year to $586.1 billion, or about flat with last year’s growth. But the online part of that is expected to rise 15 percent to $68.4 billion, according to Forrester Research.

As a result, brick-and-mortar retailers have been trying everything they can to lure consumers into stores. Some stores tested the earlier hours last year, but this year more retailers opened their doors late on Thanksgiving or at midnight on Black Friday. In addition to expanding their hours, many also are offering free layaways and shipping, matching the cheaper prices of online rivals and updating their mobile shopping apps with more information.

“Every retailer wants to beat everyone else,” said C. Britt Beemer, chairman of America’s Research Group, a research firm based in Charleston, S.C. “Shoppers love it.”

Indeed, some holiday shoppers seemed to find stores’ earlier hours appealing. Julie Hansen, a spokeswoman at Mall of America in Minneapolis, said 30,000 people showed up for the mall’s midnight opening, compared with 20,000 last year. She noted that shoppers are coming in waves, and sales aren’t just being shifted around.

“This is additional dollars,” Hansen said.

Hansen said stores that didn’t participate in the midnight opening last year learned a lesson. Last year, 100 of the 520 Mall of America tenants opened their doors at midnight. This year, that figure doubled.

About 11,000 shoppers were in lines wrapped around Macy’s flagship store in New York City’s Herald Square when it opened at midnight on Black Friday. That’s up from an estimated 9,000 to 10,000 shoppers who showed up the store’s midnight opening last year.

Joan Riedewald, a private aide for the elderly, and her four children ages six to 18, were among them. By that time, she already had spent about $100 at Toys R Us, which opened at 8 p.m., and planned to spend another $500 at Macy’s before heading to Old Navy.

“I only shop for sales,” she said.

Carey Maguire, 33, and her sister Caitlyn Maguire, 21, showed up at the same Target about two hours before it opened. Their goal was to buy several Nook tablet computers, which were on sale for $49. But while waiting in line they were also using their iPhone to do some online buying at rival stores.

“If you’re going to spend, I want to make it worth it,” said Caitlyn Maguire, a college student.

By the afternoon on Thanksgiving, there were 11 shoppers in a four-tent encampment outside a Best Buy store near Ann Arbor, Mich., that opened at midnight. The purpose of their wait? A $179 40-inch Toshiba LCD television is worth missing Thanksgiving dinner at home.

Jackie Berg, 26, of Ann Arbor, arrived first with her stepson and a friend Wednesday afternoon, seeking three of the televisions. The deal makes the TVs $240 less than their normal price, so Berg says that she’ll save more than $700.

“We’ll miss the actual being there with family, but we’ll have the rest of the weekend for that,” she said.

But some shoppers decided to stick to Black Friday. Nicole Page of Bristol, Conn., shopped with her sister at a Wal-Mart in Manchester, Conn., at about 4:45 a.m. on Black Friday. Page, who recently finished school and started working as a nurse, bought an electric fireplace for $200 that she said was originally $600. Her shopping cart also had candy canes, a nail clipper for her dog and other stocking stuffers.

Page said she and her sister stuck with the Black Friday tradition; They’ve shopped in the early morning of Black Friday in previous years.

“We try to make a tradition of it. It’s kind of exciting,” she said.

24
Nov

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