Friday, November 20, 2015

Some Stores Find Black Thursday Not As Profitable in the Long Run

Where several stores have decided to push up their Black Friday sales earlier on Thanksgiving day, many others are doing the opposite, closing their stores for the entire holiday in a show of support for those shoppers and employees who wish to spend time with their families. In her L.A. Times article, Samantha Masunaga investigates some of the deeper reasons behind the closure, as well as the financial implications for the businesses.

Over the past couple of years, Black Friday sales have been starting earlier and earlier. Historically, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving and is a time when people can get good deals on new electronics like video game systems, televisions, and handheld devices. Until relatively recently, Black Friday started around midnight on Thursday night (technically Friday morning) and continued throughout the day. As companies began to realize that Black Friday sales brought in a lot of income, they started opening as early as 8 or 9 PM on Thanksgiving itself, enabling the sales to last longer and bring more customers into their stores.

This year, though, some companies are pushing it even earlier, some as early as 5 or 6 PM on Thanksgiving, which cuts family time pretty short for employees. In opposition to this, many slightly smaller companies are choosing to remain closed all of Thursday, with a belief that the few extra hours will not make much of a difference in the long run. Companies like Staples, Gamestop, and H&M have announced that its stores, headquarters, and distribution centers will be closed for the holiday. This decision, while upsetting to some potential shoppers, could potentially lead to greater loyalty among other customers who see that the companies care about enabling their employees to spend time with their families on the holiday.

Furthermore, many of the smaller retailers have come to a realization that opening their stores earlier for Black Friday doesn't have so much potential for profit. Analysts have shown that larger retailers, who can more afford to purchase big-ticket items in bulk for very reduced prices, are helped by a longer Black Friday, but that the smaller stores don't stand a chance trying to compete. So, this year the smaller retailers are concentrating on building goodwill and encouraging customers to shop online, then are opening up on Friday with their Black Friday sales. Statistics even show that those stores that opened early on Thanksgiving had a reduce in sales of about 11% over the rest of the weekend since those people who shopped on Thanksgiving were less likely to come back later.

Large companies may find out eventually that starting Black Friday on Thanksgiving does not positively affect them to the required extent to make a sizable profit. After all, when employees work on Black Friday, especially the portion of Black Friday that falls on Thanksgiving day, they get paid a higher hourly rate. At some point, the stores will reach a point at which sales are maximized while costs are minimized, at which point they will try to open their stores at that sweet spot every year. Because they continue to open ever earlier, it appears that they have not yet found that perfect time. Maybe they will eventually go back to being closed during the entire holiday, whether due to a lesser profit ratio or a surge in public opinion. It's hard to tell, so we will just have to wait and see.

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