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National News / Business

Thursday, 15 November, 2012 11:49 PM

Stores extending their hours for Black Friday; layaway making a comeback

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / ©AMERICAJR.com

Shoppers waiting in line for the Midnight Madness opening at Premium Outlets Birch Run.

 

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

 

|

LOS ANGELES -- Black Friday is just around the corner on Nov. 23. Small business Saturday will take place on the following day and then Cyber Monday follows on Nov. 26. Many brick-and-mortar retailers have said they will open their doors earlier this year and will remain open for a longer period of time. In addition, online retailers are expected to offer free shipping to everyone in addition to their deep discounts. Layaway is making a return at several stores this holiday shopping season. The average consumer is expected to spend $750 over Black Friday weekend, according to the National Retail Federation.

"There's no question that retailers are planning to roll out some of the best deals of the year this Thanksgiving weekend," said Kathy Grannis, a spokeswoman for the National Retail Federation (NRF). "We're expecting great deals on everything from apparel to electronics to even some of the year's hottest toys. We already know that people are gearing up and mapping out their strategies as we speak. The average person will spend about $750 on holiday merchandise. That includes decorations and food and of course, gifts. That is up slightly from about $740 last year."

I've been seeing a lot of early Black Friday sales such as the day before Thanksgiving or up to a week before in the case of Staples.

"There are many companies in recent years who have really taken it to a new level with their big Thanksgiving Day/weekend promotions," she added. "More and more we continue to hear about companies who want to open late on Thanksgiving Day. This is actually a direct result of customer demand. There are millions of people out there we know and according to the surveys we conduct, that love to shop at night on Thanksgiving Day and sleep in Friday. When it comes to the other early, promotions and the ones leading up to the big weekend, it really is only one true weekend that consumers can expect the best deals possible. I think the ones leading up to it certainly also bring in a ton of attention and excitement as well."

The NRF spokeswoman said many retailers will open their doors earlier on Black Friday and remain open longer than last year.

"Many companies will open as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day," Grannis explained. "With that, they will continue to stay open through Black Friday with maybe a few hours of break in between. This is a new trend. We've seen this in the last couple of years only. It does seem to be a very big hit with shoppers to want to shop late on Thanksgiving Day and maybe sleep in on Saturday instead of waking up at the crack of dawn."

This year, Tanger Outlet malls will be opening at 10 p.m. while Premium Outlet malls will open at midnight with select stores opening earlier on Black Friday.

"Midnight openings at outlet malls are very popular with holiday shoppers," she said. "Again, this does seem to be the trend. People shopping late instead of waking up early. It remains to be seen if we will continue to see this trend down the road in years to come. There's no question that outlet stores across the country who do open at midnight will see their fair share of shopping traffic."

Our nation's economy is supposed to be a little better than last year. How will that affect shoppers?

"The economy is still top of mind for many people," the spokeswoman added. "Even though we are in a slightly better place than we have been in recent years. This year, half of Americans say the economy is still going to impact their spending plans for the holiday season. That does continue to increase. We are seeing improvements in key government data. Overall, I think people have a better grasp of their finances and of their financial stability. They know that it's important to still stick to a budget and really set their family's expectations on how much their family is going to spend on gifts. People have been really creative in terms of finding ways to cut corners, but still find great ways to celebrate the holiday with their friends and family."

Some retailers like Kmart and Walmart have brought back their layaway programs. Do you think it is having a revival?

"Layaway continues to be very popular with holiday shoppers," Grannis explained. "Yes, in recent years, a few companies have decided to bring it back after having gotten rid of it. It is a great way for families to spread out their spending. It also keeps the kids from snooping throughout the house if there's a hot holiday toy that mom and dad bought. It certainly keeps kids from finding that gift in the closet. We do know, just from talking to retailers, that their shoppers really do find it a value."

Target has announced it will be matching prices this holiday season for the first time ever.

"Price matching is a big theme this year," she said. "We are hearing that it is a result of retailers trying to integrate the shopping experience more than ever before. When it comes to prices online, some companies want to go ahead and offer their customers that price that they see that might be lower. At the same time, there's other retailers who know that at the end of the day, it doesn't matter where people shop, as long as people shop with them. Whether it's an online sale or in-store sale, many companies are doing everything that they can to attract extra customer dollars this year. Price matching seems to be a popular one."

What safety tips do you have for consumers on Black Friday when they visit shopping malls and stores?

"Record crowds are expected to hit the stores over Black Friday weekend this year as we've seen in recent years," the spokeswoman added. "It's important for people to remember that at any time, somebody could be eyeing their bags and just looking to grab their bag and run away with it. The same is true with their wallets. We recommend that people refrain from pulling out large amounts of cash at the register. If they are going to shop with cash, they keep it under wraps until they are ready to pay. The same for their smartphones and tablets. It's very easy to walk around and hold those devices in your hand and be on the go and be active to see what's happening online while you're in stores. They are people who are lurking around the corners or could be lurking around the corners just waiting to take those devices out of your hand. It's really important to be cognitive and keep your bags close and pay attention even in the parking lot when you are walking to the car if you have a lot of bags."

You did mention the smartphones. How can people use their iPhone or their Windows phone to find more deals?

"Smartphones and tablets are going to play a very large role in how people shop this year," Grannis explained. "There are many apps that people can download that not only offer coupons, but let you check-in to a store virtually. At that time, the retailer will automatically shoot them a coupon to use at their next in-store purchase. There are so many different ways to utilize this new technology that exists with mobile phones and tablets. It's also great for researching products and looking at customer reviews. For those on the go, if you have an e-mail account that you receive e-mails from retailers, you can use that e-mail coupon at the register by just simply holding up your phone and having the customer service representative scan your phone for the discount. If you have a smartphone, definitely look for ways to use it this holiday season."

We also have Cyber Monday coming up. What products might be cheaper on that day?

"Cyber Monday will be a great day for anyone looking for last-minute deals that they weren't able to find over the weekend or even for those who prefer to shop online and not hit the stores," the spokeswoman added. "It is one of the best days of the year in terms of online holiday promotions. There's no doubt that we'll see our share of promotions on everything from apparel to electronics to toys and even home decor and home good items. Free shipping will definitely be plentiful that weekend and that day as well. For those who don't want to go to the store over the weekend, Cyber Monday is a great way to seek out those free shipping deals and buy everything online."

Do you think more consumers will shop on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday this year?

"We expect people to shop all weekend long starting as early as 8 p.m. on Thursday and continuing well through the day on Cyber Monday," she said. "Some people may make one large trip or make one big purchase online. Others could really spread out their shopping all weekend long. There's no question that it is the biggest shopping weekend of the year and that includes Cyber Monday."

Getting back to Black Friday for just one second, do you think the websites with the Black Friday ads or circulars are pretty reliable?

"Some retailers chose to leak their Black Friday ads early to get people excited," Grannis explained. "Others are accidentally leaked, or maliciously leaked from somebody who doesn't have access or permission does put out that information early without permission. For many companies, getting the information out there early is a way to shore up excitement and help get people excited about what they're going to offer in the stores."

Finally, can you discuss the impact of Small Business Saturday?

"All kinds of retailers--small, large, online, restaurants and even grocery stores were certainly very supportive of our small business community. Any initiative that supports small businesses and helps grow their business and really helps the community and kind of brings communities together, we of course support any initiative like Small Business Saturday. It is a great way to show how important small businesses are to the community."

For more information about the National Retail Federation, visit www.nrf.com.

Related Story: Tips to Get the Most Out of Black Friday and Cyber Monday

 

 

Photo credit: www.affinia.com

A woman using her credit card to order gifts online.

 

Photo credit: www.csmonitor.com

Amazon.com will be very busy this holiday season.

 

Graphic credit: www.target.com

Target is matching prices over the holidays for the first time ever.

 

Graphic credit: www.walgreens.com

Use your smartphone to get mobile coupons and have them scanned in-store.

 

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Unauthorized duplication or use of Text, Photos, Videos, Site Template, Graphics and or Site Design is Prohibited by Federal and International laws. See our Notice/Disclaimer.

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