Has the world really come to this? Are we going to have to start making plans for Black Tuesday? In June? Taking a page from states planning their primary schedules, major retailers have all started to move up their opening in hopes of getting first crack at holiday bargain hunters on the biggest shopping day of the year. However, public backlash over the decision by some stores to open at midnight on Friday or even 10pm on Thursday may reveal that there’s a limit to how employees can be pushed.
Earlier and Earlier
The opening salvo (pun intended) in this year’s battle to get at shoppers first came from the Target Corporation (TGT), which announced in late October that major names would be opening their stores at midnight this year in order to give Black Friday shoppers looking for deals a full 23 hours of available shopping time. This wasn’t unprecedented as Sears Holding Corporation (SHLD) opened its Sears and K-Mart chains on Thanksgiving morning, representing a trend among lower end retailers to show less restrictions in their holiday hours. This year, though, the major players decided to get in the act. The midnight opening represents Target’s earliest Black Friday opening ever (a record I suspect will not be broken), and proved to be just the first domino to fall. Macy’s Inc. (M), Kohl’s Corporation (KCC), and Best Buy Co., Inc. (BBY) have all followed suit, announcing that their stores would also open at midnight.
An Elephant Looking for a Place to Sit
Mega-retailer Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (WMT) waited until November 10th before dropping its own bombshell: its stores would be opening at 10pm on Thanksgiving Day. The company hopes that a two-hour jump would help it get ahead of the other major retailers in a holiday season that appears to be spiraling towards insanity. The early openings give an insight into just how important Black Friday sales and the holiday season as a whole are to the retail business. Stores appear ready to do whatever it takes to ensure that they can have the strong start to the all-important holiday buying season. “The decision to open at midnight on Black Friday was not one we took lightly,” said Anahita Cameron, a Target human resources director, in a media statement. “As that is the busiest shopping day of the year, it is imperative that we be competitive. Our guests have expressed that they would prefer to kick off their holiday shopping by heading out after their holiday celebrations rather than getting up in the middle of the night.”
Employees Push Back
The has been some backlash to the rash of early Black Friday openings from store employees angry that their Thanksgiving holidays will be cut short. Anthony Hardwick, a part-time Target employee in Omaha, NE whose scheduled plans to celebrate the anniversary of his engagement to his fiancée this Thanksgiving were foiled, was frusturated when he found out that he would have to arrive at work at 11pm on Thanksgiving, something that meant he would have to sleep through the day in order to stay up all night. He started an online petition calling for Target to return to last year’s hours entitled “Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving” that has attracted nearly 200,000 members.
Unfortunately for Hardwick, it appears unlikely that Target or other stores will heed the calls from employees to move opening back. A recent a Deloitte survey revealed that seven out of ten shoppers have sought out information on Black Friday deals while 44 percent intend to do their shopping between midnight and 5 AM on Friday.