Lots of big-name retailers open on Thanksgiving Day to start their Black Friday events early, but Kmart has made the most waves this year by announcing plans to opening at 6am on Thanksgiving Thursday. Will this new policy ultimately kill the Black Friday pseudo-holiday once and for all?
No more Thanksgiving
For years, retailers have slowly encroached upon the Thanksgiving holiday, opening their doors earlier and earlier in the evening to encourage shoppers to get a jump-start on their December spending. Toys “R” Us will be opening up at 5pm for the fifth year in a row, and Walmart has pushed their Thursday opening time to 8pm.
Many shoppers and workers believe that Kmart may have crossed the line, however, by choosing to effectively eliminate Thanksgiving completely. They’ll be opening up at 6am on the 28th, many hours before competing retailers, will close 41 hours later, at 11pm on Black Friday (presumably to restock). This decision has garnered extra attention – not all of it positive.
With so many stores opening on Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday, there’s a lot of competition for shoppers’ attention. Macy’s will open on Thanksgiving this holiday season for the first time in 155 years. If this retail giant can be pressured into breaking with a tradition that’s more than a century and a half old, Kmart could be changing the holiday shopping game completely.
Ready, set, shop!
Holiday shopping has practically become a competitive sport – everyone wants to get the most stuff for the least amount of money. Retailers want to give their shoppers the chance to buy everything they want, as soon as possible. Stores used to open early in the morning on Black Friday to get shoppers in the doors and spending, but then a few of them started opening the night before Black Friday to get the jump on the competition.
Kmart has simply used this same tactic in a more outrageous way. In an effort to get more shoppers in their stores, the retailer has decided to open up before everyone else. From a retail standpoint, it’s a smart move that’s no different from Walmart’s choice to open at 10pm on Thursday, rather than midnight on Black Friday. But from a shopper’s standpoint, it’s a bit of a hassle to fit shopping and celebrating into the same day.
However, that won’t keep plenty of consumers from going to Kmart to check out the deals. Die-hard Black Friday shoppers follow the sales, and there are always shoppers who want to get in the stores first to examine the deals before anyone else. Shoppers may complain about the new hours, but Kmart will certainly see a good deal of shopping traffic due to this new strategy. The question is, in getting the jump on all their competitors, has Kmart killed Black Friday?
Black Friday’s slow decline
Kmart may have tarnished its image with shoppers who still want to enjoy Thanksgiving festivities, not to mention its employees who’d no doubt hoped to spend the day at home. But Black Friday’s decline can’t solely be pinned on Kmart, or any one retailer for that matter.
The Internet has done much more than Kmart to keep shoppers out of stores on the day after Thanksgiving. Online holiday shopping has steadily increased over the years; currently, around 40 percent of holiday purchases are conducted online.
And because the Internet is always open for shopping, more consumers are buying their gifts even before Thanksgiving. In a study conducted by the CFI Group, less than 25 percent of shoppers said they would spend more than half of their holiday money on the Black Friday weekend. More than half of participants said they would start their holiday shopping well in advance of Thanksgiving.
Kmart isn’t the only chain trying to get some of that early holiday traffic. Both Walmart and Toys “R” Us began announcing holiday deals way back in August. Walmart is already offering discounted items online and in stores. Black Friday has slowly started to outgrow its single-day span over the years. Today, Cyber Monday follows Black Friday, and online “pre-Black Friday” deals appear days before the holiday itself. For years Black Friday has been a weekend event rather than just one day. If the shopping holiday can extend several days into the future, why not backwards into the Thanksgiving holiday as well?
Black Friday isn’t dead, but its definition has become more fluid. Kmart isn’t going to kill Black Friday, and the retailer can’t even be blamed for changing it. The Internet, intense competition from other retailers and the whims of the shopper have made Black Friday what it is, and it can no longer be contained in one day. Don’t be surprised if Black Friday becomes Black November.