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Retailers, shoppers preparing for post-Thanksgiving frenzy

Most stores at Valley Mall and Hagerstown Premium Outlets, as well as others, are gearing up for midnight openings

November 21, 2012|By C.J. LOVELACE | cj.lovelace@herald-mail.com
  • Shoppers are shown Tuesday at Valley Mall near Halfway. Many stores at the mall are planning to open at midnight on the biggest holiday shopping day of the year.
By Ric Dugan, Staff Photographer

Door-busters, bargains and sales — oh my!

Black Friday is just hours away and area retailers — including most stores at the Valley Mall and Hagerstown Premium Outlets — are gearing up for midnight openings on the biggest holiday shopping day of the year.

But some will be opening up even earlier, operating with extended hours on Thanksgiving Day as a direct result of the tendencies and demand seen in recent years from shoppers eager to find the best deals on holiday gifts, according to some area retail officials.

Year after year, big-box retail chains have been opening ever earlier in an attempt to draw shoppers away from their competitors, a theory that’s driven by the belief that the earliest start times tend to draw more customers, according to economist Anirban Basu of the Sage Policy Group in Baltimore.

“The logic is that if we start Black Friday earlier, then we’ll win market share,” Basu said. “The end result is a collective move to start everything earlier.”

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While midnight openings will still be going on all over the area, several retailers are continuing the earlier-opening race this year, some starting as early as Thanksgiving morning or afternoon or not closing on the holiday at all.

According to a pre-Black Friday survey by the National Retail Federation, approximately 147 million people plan to shop this weekend, although its a slight decrease from 152 million people a year ago.

“Though the Black Friday tradition is here to stay, there’s no question that it has changed in recent years; already there is a tremendous amount of excitement and anticipation surrounding retailers’ Thanksgiving and Black Friday promotions,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in a news release on the NRF website. “It’s critical for retail companies to constantly evolve as consumers do, and right now shoppers want great deals, good value and convenience — exactly what we’re seeing with this season’s late and early openings, price-matching, layaway and mobile offerings.”

The emergence of social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, and others, as well as email marketing have opened new avenues for retailers to connect with their customers on a daily basis, which also has led to increased participation in Cyber Monday online sales following the Black Friday in-store frenzy.

Locally, Walmart on Garland Groh Boulevard won’t deviate from its typical 24-hour operation throughout the holiday weekend and Kmart on Massey Boulevard plans to be up and running before many even begin preparing their holiday meals, opening its doors at 6 a.m. Thanksgiving Day.

Near Walmart, H.H. Gregg will open at 10 p.m. Thursday and will stay open through 9 p.m. Black Friday, a store employee said.

Best Buy will be closed Thanksgiving and open Friday at midnight.

Deals on various types of merchandise — from electronics to clothing to jewelry and much more — will be in effect all weekend.

Numerous stores at the Valley Mall and Premium Outlets will open prior to the clock striking midnight to officially welcome Black Friday, some as early as 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.

“There’s a competition,” said Michele Wills, marketing director for the Valley Mall. “The stores that open at midnight, there are other stores that are opening in the area at midnight, so there’s the competition for shoppers.”

Wills said mall retailers have been gearing up all week to get ready for the shopping rush, which includes Sears and Toys R Us opening at 8 p.m., four hours before the mall’s official opening time of midnight.

“Consistently year after year, sales have increased,” she said. “I know the National Retail Federation is predicting a 4 percent increase in sales from last year, and we usually follow a similar trend.”

Many stores will offer “rounds” of door-buster deals and markdowns throughout the weekend. Sears, which will open just its outside doors at the mall at 8 p.m., is one of those retailers.

Sears spokesman Brian Hanover said the company has heard “loud and clear” that there is a growing demand from shoppers who want to get out even earlier than midnight on Black Friday.

Hanover pointed to the increased convenience of the different ways Sears customers can shop, including online deals and an option where shoppers can buy online and then pickup items at the store.

“No matter what kind of shopper you are — late night, early morning, online — the face of shopping has changed and we want to be there no matter where our customers shop,” he said. “... There’s a demand there and we’re open to meet that demand. We feel it’s a smart business decision.”

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