Black Friday is so yesterday.
For years, the Friday after Thanksgiving traditionally drew hordes of holiday shoppers, who rushed to shopping malls in the pre-dawn hours to buy Tickle Me Elmo toys, $5 toaster ovens and $200 flat-screen televisions. The annual shopping ritual also became synonymous with long lines and even mini-riots at some big-box stores as consumers scrambled to nab the hottest-selling gifts.
But this year, with more retailers nationwide opening their doors on Thanksgiving night, those Black Friday door-buster deals are being snatched up at turkey-dinner time, eliminating the urgency of Black Friday as the official launch of the shopping season.
“There’s no question we’re in Black November going forward,” said Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group in New York, a market research firm. “You’re watching a new tradition being born right before your eyes – the front-loading of the holiday.”
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The goal for many retailers who choose to open on Thanksgiving isn’t to score more sales, Cohen said. Rather, it’s “to get the early dollar before the consumer runs out of the money.”
With many Black Friday promotions starting earlier in the week, the traditional Friday crowds are becoming less frenzied here and nationwide.
Just before 7 a.m., only dozens of shoppers roamed the halls at Arden Fair mall in Sacramento. Most streamed in the night before, about 9 p.m., according to mall spokesman Steve Reed. This year, Arden Fair opened at 6 p.m. Thursday, the earliest ever for Black Friday sales.
Many were surprised by the lack of crowds Friday morning.
“Today I drove in, and I drove (right) into a spot,” said Shirley Smith. “It usually takes me 45 minutes to find a parking spot on Black Friday.”
Smith, 59, was drinking coffee and taking a break on a mall bench. In 30 years of participating in Black Friday shopping, Smith said she has never seen so few people show up.
That’s because the vast majority of hard-core shoppers had already finished their holiday wish lists on Thursday night, analysts said.
Take Sharon Delnero, who was in line at the Best Buy store in Natomas around 9 p.m. Thursday. The Sacramento resident scooped up two door-busters: a $299 Dell laptop for her teenage daughter and a $79 vacuum cleaner.
While lamenting that retailers were encroaching on Thanksgiving as a family time, Delnero said the Best Buy deals were too good to pass up.
“I’m really here just for the laptop,” she said.
To the obvious delight of consumers, several door-buster deals, including TVs and other electronics, were still available hours after Best Buy opened its doors. The electronics retailer opened at 5 p.m. but four hours later, plenty of discounted TVs and game consoles sat untouched. Only the best door-buster deals, including a $199 Panasonic 50-inch TV, were snatched up in the first few minutes.
The same could be said next door at Target.
“I’m surprised they didn’t sell out,” said Monica Chandra, who picked up a 39-inch Vizio TV door-buster at 10 p.m., four hours after the store opened.
The modest crowds were also evident Friday morning at the Walmart in West Sacramento, with only a handful of customers in the aisles – and most were doing their regular grocery shopping. One of those, Robert Newsom, 58, said he usually completes 80 percent of his Christmas shopping online and only swung by the store for groceries.
In several interviews, store employees and shoppers said the action occurred Thanksgiving at 6 p.m., when door-buster deals went on sale.
“Walmart was a madhouse,” said Treana Johnson, 21. “People were angry, fighting and shoving.”
The Sacramento native was on a marathon shopping trip, starting at the Walmart in Elk Grove to purchase a 50-inch TV for $218, one of the door-busters guaranteed to everyone in line at 6 p.m. She said she stayed up shopping all night, making stops at the Westfield Galleria in Roseville before ending up at Arden Fair around 8 a.m. on Black Friday.
“Right now, I’m ready to go to sleep,” said Johnson, a student at Brigham Young University in Utah, slouching in a chair at Arden Fair.
One complaint about the Thanksgiving openings was that they weren’t consistent among all retailers. Some, like Macy’s, stayed opened around the clock from 6 p.m. to closing on Friday night. Others remained closed entirely on Thanksgiving, while some briefly opened Thursday night, then started over again Friday morning.
At Arden Fair, for instance, about 64 percent of the 169 stores opened at 6 p.m., according to spokesman Reed. In Roseville, Westfield Galleria stores also opened at 6 p.m. and were given the option to close at midnight and reopen Friday at 6 a.m. But 80 out of the mall’s 230 stores chose to stay open overnight, according to marketing director Stephanie Ringey.
The Internet likely stole some of the thunder from brick-and-mortar Black Friday shopping as well. Online sales between midnight and 6 p.m. Eastern time on Thanksgiving rose 12 percent over the same period last year, according to IBM Digital Analytics, which tracks online shopping transactions.
Retail analyst Cohen said there was “a definite shift” toward online shopping this year, especially as retailers began posting their door-buster Black Friday sales on their websites.
Among them were Target and Walmart, both of whom put many of their coveted door-busters online in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, which allowed consumers to shop without leaving home.
In an interview earlier this month, Sung Won Sohn, vice chairman of the Forever 21 apparel chain and an economist at California State University, Channel Islands, said holiday sales this year will likely center on general merchandise, including apparel. In the past, that category languished while shoppers snapped up popular electronics.
That sentiment was apparent at the Folsom Premium Outlets late Thursday, as droves of shoppers braved chilly night-time temperatures at the outdoor center. Between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m., shoppers were buying up Nike shoes, Coach handbags and Gap jeans, all at significant discounts.
Premium Outlets declined to comment.
At the Galleria, officials are still tallying up the Black Friday final traffic count, but Ringey described the preliminary numbers as “encouraging and consistent.”
Ringey said the earlier opening tended to spread out shoppers over the two days.
“In years past, there were long lines, but this time it was more casual, more relaxed,” she said.
The National Retail Federation predicts that November and December retail sales will rise 4.1 percent over last year. The average person is expected to spend $804.42 this holiday, up from $767.27 in 2013.
Jeffrey Michael, economist and head of the Business Forecasting Center at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, predicted retailers could see their best year since the end of the recession.
“The economy is picking up. Gas prices are lower. People are feeling more confident,” Michael said.
Still, NPD Group’s Cohen predicted that retailers will face an uphill battle this season, largely due to the lack of a hot item. Many of the Black Friday specials, such as big-screen TVs and tablet computers, were repeats from last year.
“The biggest challenge of retailers is not when to sell it, but what to sell,” he said.
Call The Bee’s Richard Chang at (916) 321-1018. Follow him on Twitter @RichardYChang. Bee staff writer Hudson Sangree contributed to this report.
Is Black Friday still the biggest shopping day?
Since 2005, Black Friday has held the crown for the top sales day of the year, according to ShopperTrak, which tracks data at 70,000 stores globally. That could change this year. The earlier openings on Thanksgiving are eating into Black Friday sales. As a result, the last Saturday before Christmas may edge out Black Friday. Bill Martin, co-founder of ShopperTrak, said it should be close to a tie.
The Associated Press
Online sales strong on Thanksgiving
Early figures for online shopping on Thanksgiving Day show a substantial increase from last year. Custora, a company that helps retailers track e-commerce data, said the number of online transactions was up nearly 20 percent on Thanksgiving Day vs. last year. However, the buying still remains well below Black Friday volumes, which in 2013 were 2.5 times higher than Thanksgiving Day this year. Revenue was up 17.7 percent from last year, Custora said. Mobile orders accounted for slightly more than a third of the total, vs. one-fifth last year.
Retailers still worried
About 140 million people are expected to shop in stores or online this weekend and analysts are closely watching for lingering wariness among consumers. The National Retail Federation, predicts that sales in November and December, excluding auto, gas and restaurant sales, will rise 4.1 percent from the same months last year, to $616.9 billion – a slightly faster clip compared with the 2013 holiday season. Last year, sales on Black Friday slumped 13.2 percent to $9.74 billion, according to ShopperTrak. Analysts said Friday afternoon that early standouts included Old Navy, Kohl’s and Macy’s. Traffic was weak at everyday discounters – like TJ Maxx and Ross – and at children’s clothing stores, as shoppers appeared to be more focused on big-ticket items like TVs and laptops.
The New York Times