The Thanksgiving turkey – or what’s left of it – will still be warm when many metro area retailers open for holiday shopping Thursday. But some stores will open before many birds go in the oven.
It’s all part of retailers’ pursuit to capture as much of the $976 the National Retail Federation says will be spent by the average consumer this holiday season.
Cabela’s, for example, will open Thursday at 8 a.m. – same as its new owner, Bass Pro Shops. Historically, the outdoor retailer took Thanksgiving off.
“We don’t really know what Thanksgiving will be like because it will be our first one,” said Courtney Davis, marketing manager for the Augusta Cabela’s store. “It’s just going to be a curious thing to see who comes and how many people are here.”
Also new to Thanksgiving-day shopping is electronics retailer GameStop, which surprised video game enthusiasts earlier this year by announcing it would open its doors at 4 p.m. Major department store JCPenney, which has opened on the holiday for years, will this year open an hour earlier at 2 p.m.
Consumers have mixed emotions about stores opening before “Black Friday,” the day that traditionally kicks off the season. This year’s annual BestBlackFriday.com survey showed just over half of respondents, 57.5 percent, said they did not like seeing stores open on Thanksgiving. About 26.3 percent were indifferent and only 16.2 percent said they liked stores being open on the holiday.
Online shopping growth has eroded the relevance of in-store sales events in recent years, especially among younger consumers. But a survey this month by ORC International for Junior Achievement USA shows teens actually plan to make more holiday purchases at traditional stores than online, by a margin of 54 percent to 46 percent.
Of that majority, the largest percent, 34 percent, said they planned to head to traditional shopping malls, followed by electronics stores, at 20 percent, and department stores, at 13 percent.
A separate study by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights &Analytics suggests young adults (those aged 18-24) are the only demographic likely to spend more than they did last year.
Amy Dalton, general manager of the Augusta Mall, said overall economic improvement and the region’s stable employment base bode well for the metro area’s largest shopping center.
“If the crowds we’ve seen in the past are any indication, this is going to be a great holiday season for our retailers, ” she said. “The good thing with the economy here is we have military and health care, two groups that always get a paycheck. We are blessed to have stable industries.”
What keeps brick-and-mortar stores sales shining against the 24/7 glow of computer screens and smartphones is retailers’ ability to turn the real-world shopping experience into a social event – a party of sorts for friends and family who enjoy the thrill of hunting “doorbuster” sales and other deep discounts.
“Black Friday is that one-time-of-the-year-event; it has that allure to it,” said Jason Visintainer, general manager of Augusta’s Best Buy store. “I’ve seen families camping out, and they’ve all got their walkie-talkies and everything. For them, this is their family event.”
Discount retailer Walmart, for example, said it will host 20,000 parties during the holiday shopping season at its 4,700 stores. The Black Friday “party” at Cabela’s will include a DJ, free biscuits and gravy, and 600 giveaway (100 more than last year) items worth more than $8,000.
“We’ve been doing the ‘experience’ for a long time, and I think that’s one of the reasons we’ve been doing so well at the (brick-and-mortar) level is because we have that customer service and those loyal customers,” Davis said.
Cliff and Allison Eaddy of Grovetown were at Cabela’s on Monday, browsing potential gifts for their three young children, Ella, McCray and Mae – all of whom have December birthdays. The couple doesn’t plan to shop on Thanksgiving, but at least one of them might be out on Black Friday.
“He likes being in the craziness,” Allison said. “It’s a thrill for him to get out. I, on the other hand, don’t like to get into the crowds.”
Reach Damon Cline at (706) 823-3352 or firstname.lastname@example.org.