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"Cold turkey" takes on new meaning for Black Friday

11/20/2012

Economists agree, retailers are expecting holiday spending in 2012 will be the strongest in the past four years. But why?

“The economy is improving, unemployment is falling, housing and construction are recovering, auto sales and manufacturing are growing and consumer optimism is rising,” notes Jim Brock, Bill R. Moeckel Professor of Economics at Miami University.

The National Retail Federation is forecasting a 4.1 percent increase in holiday spending this year, and many experts suspect that is a conservative estimate.

Retailers are so hopeful holiday spending will increase this year, they’re opening doors earlier than ever, with several major brick-and-mortar chains opening Thanksgiving night.

“People accepted Black Friday, so the retailers think, ‘Why not move it back? If we’re all open Thursday, then no one has the advantage,” says Mike McCarthy, professor of marketing at Miami.

Black Friday, used to predict the holiday shopping season, is getting more press this year as many major retailers for the first time are opening prior to midnight and signaling their deals much earlier.

Here is a sampling of what shoppers can expect in stores this year;

  • Walmart opens at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day with hourly deals. The retailer is also currently having a pre-Black Friday event online.
  • Amazon is offering “Black Friday Deals Week” with a countdown to Black Friday. The retailer has steep discounts each hour on different products for the entire week leading up to Black Friday.
  • Target is offering doorbuster savings beginning at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Consumers can also shop online this week during the “Beat the Rush” sale.
  • Sears is offering doorbuster savings at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving Day and again at 4 a.m. Black Friday. Members only can pre-shop the Black Friday online sale now.

Retailers’ strategy has remained the same for years: Get shoppers out of the house and into the store with doorbuster deals, and then sell them additional products once inside.

“If retailers know you’re going to buy, there’s a bigger share if you get a consumer in your store earlier, and if consumers think they’re getting a great deal, they’d rather leave the turkey cold,” adds McCarthy.

For consumers who can’t take advantage of this year’s Black Friday sales, experts say you’ll find plenty of deals on Cyber Monday, which is now one of the highest revenue shopping days of the year.

“Cyber Monday gives retailers the ability to move products they weren’t able to sell on Black Friday,” says Glenn Platt, C. Michael Armstrong Professor and co-director of Armstrong Interactive Media Studies at Miami.

His tips for Cyber Monday are simple. “First, know what the retailers are selling and make a list of what you need. Second, use a shopping comparison engine to ensure you’re getting the best online deal. And finally, look into signing up for special promotions and clubs.”

McCarthy says consumers are responsible for the shopping frenzy.

“We’re a shopping society, and we like getting good deals- whether it’s Black Thursday, Black Friday or Cyber Monday.”

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