At some big box and department stores, Santa toys, giant candy canes and Christmas trees were on shelves before trick-or-treaters had even ventured out into their neighborhoods for candy.
“I heard the first holiday Christmas carol sometime before Halloween,” said Chuck Millsaps of the Great Outdoor Provision Company in Charlotte, N.C. “I thought I had driven through this Alice in Wonderland time zone.”
Now, some of those same stores have announced plans to open doors at the stroke of midnight Thanksgiving night – or pre-Black Friday as some are calling it – perhaps as a bid to continue the upswing in sales reported nationally in September and October.
But the push to open doors earlier and earlier on the popular shopping day doesn’t seem to be a trend among specialty outdoor and fitness retailers, some tell SNEWS.
Joshua Friedman, manager of Tent and Trails in New York, N.Y., said big national retailers typically offer pre-dawn “door-buster” sales on the day after Thanksgiving while specialty retailers like to take Thanksgiving Day to enjoy families, outdoors and physical activity.
“I’m sure there would be traffic if you had the doors open,” Millsaps said. “We make more of an effort to balance our lifestyle and make sure we’re fresh to do a good job the remainder of five weeks that are so busy.”
Not all big-box retailers will jump the gun with midnight openings. Sears, which previously had plans to open at midnight, shifted back to a 4 a.m. opening on Black Friday.
While, Kmart, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Target and Best Buy among others, are keeping their earlier Thanksgiving or midnight Black Friday hours.
USA Today reported that although 87 percent of consumers surveyed said they don’t think stores should be open on Thanksgiving, some added that a more convenient time to shop could indeed be 10 p.m. Thanksgiving evening rather than 4 a.m. Friday.
Not for everybody
Specialty retailers don’t have anything against opening earlier to capture those dedicated Black Friday shoppers.
“It’s up to them,” said Michael Francis, owner of Fitnessscape in Mufreesboro, Tenn.
Bill Bartee, owner of Jesse Brown’s Outdoor Store, said he’s all for retailers opening early, although his store is closed on Thanksgiving and runs its normal hours on Black Friday.
“One of the biggest indoor sports is shopping,” Bartee told SNEWS. “Opening early, or even on a holiday, is a bow to that indoor sport and recognition of the wants of some consumers.”
Though specialty retailers said they need to do something to attract those shoppers, their talents lie more in being the reliable spot customers come to do some leisure shopping after experiencing the “terror” of door busting, Millsaps said.
“We kind of see ourselves as a place to relax and tell the war stories about how they almost got run over,” Millsaps said. “They stick around our shop, have a cup of coffee and buy something. We gift wrap for free, too.”
For Francis, he said his store’s talent lies in offering an annual holiday sale that starts Nov. 1, which he’s done for the past eight years. Like the outdoor retailers, Francis doesn’t open on Thanksgiving nor does he offer special hours on Black Friday, but his customers have come to expect the holiday sales.
But, Francis said, “Since 2009 (the sale) hasn’t been that effective” thanks to the economy. Nevertheless, he said his sales numbers are up this year from last year and he thinks the momentum will carry forward through January.
Mostly, retailers said, Thanksgiving is a time to be with families and it doesn’t do too much for employee morale to force them to come in on a holiday.
“A happy employee – someone who spends time with family – will come in on Black Friday and work just as well,” Friedman said, “even better.”
September and October were stellar months for sales, according to numbers released from many agencies including the National Retail Federation, Outdoor Industry Association and The Leisure Trends Group.
A few snowstorms around the country in October jump-started sales of cold-weather apparel, OIA said in a recent news release. Year-to-date outdoor product sales were up 6.3 percent to $7.7 billion for the nine-month fiscal retail period from February to October. Independent Outdoor Specialty posted a 10.0 percent increase in sales and Outdoor Chain Specialty posted 13.2 percent growth for the month.
The Leisure Trends Group’s “All I Want for the Holidays” survey indicates that is with good reason. Outdoor apparel and athletic/fitness equipment were two popular items active Americans indicated they’d like to receive as gifts this holiday season.
Most retailers SNEWS spoke with have good expectations going into the rest of the holiday season.
Though SNEWS previously reported that some specialty retailers felt “cautiously optimistic” about the upcoming holiday spending season, over in New York, Friedman said, “We’re feeling pretty positive."