According to the National Retail Federation, “Black Friday weekend”—a phrase that has come to encapsulate the growing expansion of the fourth quarter of the commercial year into the federal holiday of Thanksgiving—saw a record 226 million shoppers in 2011.
And in fact, 29 million shoppers are expected to head out on “Thanksgiving night,” said Lisa Wolstromer, senior marketing director for the Cherry Hill andMoorestown malls, which are opening extra-early this year.
That’s shortening the holiday by a few meaningful hours, not only for shoppers and their families, but for hourly retail workers who must shake off thetryptophan-and-wine haze and man their posts.
Suddenly, the fourth Thursday in November isn’t just a regular workday for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions—and employees of stores like Walmart and Target are fed up, reports ABC News.
Dinner with family is “just not something we can do now that have to work all night,” said one worker quoted in a Nov. 11 segment.
'They have to make adjustments'
But Wolstromer said the businesses are “only offering what the consumers are asking for,” and called last year’s midnight shopping experience "a big hit."
“People are coming out and they’re shopping, so obviously there is a demand for it,” she said. “I shop all the time.”
The malls take their cues from retailers, Wolstromer said. As such, about 60 percent of the Cherry Hill Mall will be open at midnight, as will 35 stores in theMoorestown Mall, she said, with the majority open by 5 a.m.
Wolstromer declined to comment on the anticipated economic benefit of the additional retail hours, and said that the shift in opening would mean “adjustments” for workers.
“I’ll be working Thanksgiving night,” Wolstromer said. “It’s part of my career, so I do what I need to do.”
“If they have to come into work earlier on Thanksgiving, they have to make adjustments,” she said. “My family makes an adjustment. We have dinner earlier in the day,” adding that she was “not doing anything personally” that going to work at midnight would have impeded.
In fact, Wolstromer countered, in some households, Thanksgiving dinner is the time at which “a lot of families make a plan how they’re going to go shopping and they make it a fun activity.”
'Helping people be sane about holiday shopping'
Jody Rohlena, the deputy editor of Shop Smart, a sister publication toConsumer Reports, said, however, that for those families who find midnight shopping less than fun, there will be plenty of sales yet to come this season.
“You don’t have to get up at midnight, and you don’t have to leave your Thanksgiving table in search of bargains,” she said, “unless you kind of thrive on that.”
Holiday sales start earlier and earlier every year, Rohlena said, and that those at midnight Friday “are not going to be the be-all-end-all of the season.”
Just as back-to-school sales yielded a significant inventory of leftovers that were later liquidated, “We’re going to see things marked down right before the holidays,” she said, “and then, after the holidays, clearance prices.
“There are always sales out there, and if you watch them, when you can land on a good one, that allows you to keep that perspective,” Rohlena said.
Just like Wolstromer, Rohlena said she can’t resist a bargain, claiming, “The thing that affects every aspect of my life is my need to get a good deal.
“What I am all about is just helping people be sane about holiday shopping,” she said.
Sanity has been in short supply at times on Black Friday, including, famously, a 2008 incident in which a Long Island Walmart employee was trampled beneath an onrush of deal-seekers. The belief that such (unfortunately named)doorbuster deals are once-in-a-season “breeds perceived value,” Rohlena said.
“I will just send people right back to the computer where none of this happens,” she said. “It’s tragic and unnecessary.”
'The total amount spent won't change'
Especially since, according to economic theory, writes Louis D. Johnston in theMinneapolis Post, the ultimate effect of earlier shopping hours will be cumulatively nil for the marketplace.
“Black Friday might bring some spending into November that might have waited until December…but the total amount spent won’t change,” he wrote.
“Opening earlier and earlier isn’t going to do anything to help the economy; it’s just going to make workers spend their Thanksgiving at the store and ruin the holiday for others,” Johnston wrote.
Wolstromer declined to say whether the Cherry Hill or Moorestown malls would consider a proper Thursday opening (technically, the stroke of midnight is Friday) next year; Rohlena outright said there is “a backlash” against such a practice.
“Stores were opening at the crack of dawn, and then it became midnight, and so naturally is crept into Thanksgiving Day,” she said. “Every year we’re watching this, they start earlier and earlier.”
Want a healthier alternative while still scoping a bargain? Try Small Business Saturday, she said. Through the shop-local promotion, sponsor American Express is even offering cardholders a $25 statement credit for small-business purchases made on November 24. Failing that, she said, there's always the Internet.
“Shop when you want, go to places that you like,” Rohlena said. “Stay in your pajamas, eat your turkey dinner, curl up with your computer.”