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How Black Friday shopping has evolved

By Robert Wang • Nov 22, 2018 at 4:30 PM

Some day, the memories of camping out for days for a Black Friday doorbuster at a big box store may seem quaint.

This year, as they have since the early 2000s, major local retailers like Best Buy, Walmart and Target are offering Black Friday deals.

But the year's major shopping event has evolved to where it's becoming a misnomer.

Many stores are open on Thanksgiving, and doorbuster deals are increasingly available online as shoppers pursue bargains through smartphone apps.

Retailers, eager to gain an edge with consumers, pit their websites against others on Cyber Monday, which falls on the Monday after Thanksgiving.

Adobe last year estimated that Cyber Monday online sales surged nearly 17 percent to $6.6 billion compared to the prior year's Cyber Monday.

Walmart this week will start its Black Friday sales on its website on Wednesday night at 10 p.m. with the in-store sale to begin 6 p.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Media reports this year cited analytics firms RetailNext as estimating that the number of people visiting brick-and-mortar stores dropped about 4 percent for Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday from 2016 to 2017.

And RetailNext projected that, with consumers holding out for even better deals, retailers will generate more sales the Saturday before Christmas than on Black Friday. But it projects that Black Friday will have the highest volume of in-store traffic.

Black Friday backlash

Amid all the Black Friday hype is fatigue setting in among consumers?

"We stay totally away from Black Friday," said Larry Spurgeon, 75, of Nimishillen Township after a visit to Bed, Bath and Beyond at the Strip last week."When I watch TV and I see people fight in line, I think that's crazy. ... It's not worth the deal. You can order online."

Joisse Cagey doesn't like that stores don't respect the Thanksgiving Day holiday by holding sales on that day.

"It's kind of annoying," she said.

Her daughter, Natalie Gustamante, 23, of Alliance said, "I'd rather (the sales) be on Friday so people will spend time with their families."

Black Friday is just too crowded, said Diane McCauley of North Canton.

"I'd rather order online Amazon, Target. ... They shouldn't be opening on Thanksgiving. Come on! Give it a break."

But she said, "I know a lot of people who'll get up the middle of the night" to shop.

Beth Szczepaniak said she had plans to go out on Black Friday with her niece to the Legacy Village shopping mall in Lyndhurst. Then they would go to Crate and Barrel. She said she'd rather the sales be on one day so she can get them over with quickly rather than sales being spread over several days.

"I plan on staying home," said Sherry Pawley of Nimishillen Township.

"It's crowded. It's terrible," she said about Black Friday. "No deal's worth my time."

For the experience

Haithem Zourrig, an assistant professor of marketing at Kent State University Stark campus, said Black Friday is "without doubt ... is the most popular shopping event of the season."

It's often more about the experience and excitement of seeking the deal and the chance to bond with family and friends than getting the deal itself.

"For many consumers, Black Friday is the kind of a ritual for hunting," he said. "For the good deal, the best price. For other consumers, Black Friday is an opportunity to gather with friends, social lives and also to do shopping with family. And you may find other consumers they see Black Friday as a kind of competition. In other words, they compete with other shoppers."

Retailers get a high percentage of sales from holiday shopping, which traditionally kicks off during the Black Friday period.

He also said many of the Black Friday sales have shifted online as millennials, who want to avoid the hassle of waiting in lines, are more used to shopping with smartphone apps than their elders.

But Zourrig said retailers eager to win the sale by discounting so aggressively may hurt themselves in the long term. Consumers, conditioned by the sales, may refuse to buy until the price goes down.

Retailers "have to be very careful how they manage expectations, especially when it comes to the price. Customers are becoming more loyal to the price rather than the brand or the product," he said.

Zourrig predicts a day when instead of going to an actual store, shoppers could put on virtual reality goggles and visit a virtual store on Black Friday.

Ana Serafin-Smith, senior director of media relations for the National Retail Federation, said her organization is forecasting an increase in retail sales, whether in stores or online, of 4.3 to 4.8 percent for November and December. She said the federation is forecasting that 11 percent of holiday shopping will be online, an increase from 10 percent the prior year.

Consumers "shop at all times. The Walmart app. .... The Macy's app on their phone. And they're shopping at 2 in the morning because they have insomnia from Thanksgiving," she said, adding retailers are offering early morning Black Friday exclusive deals just through their apps. But "there are still those consumers, mostly male, that love to wait in the line for the latest Samsung, Sony TV that's super low priced at Best Buy, Target, Walmart at midnight or 1 a.m. or 3 a.m. ... That consumer is never going away."

Serafin-Smith said, "the reason that stores are never going to go away is that consumers will never purchase a very expensive item without test driving it first."

In addition, stores like Walmart have extensively marketed the option for customers to select and pay for their items online and pick them up in the store "so they don't have to deal with the crowds that come in on Black Friday."

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©2018 The Repository, Canton, Ohio

Visit The Repository, Canton, Ohio at www.cantonrep.com

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