Metro-East News

‘Big customer demand’: Black Friday giving way to Gray Thursday

Black Friday giving way to Gray Thursday

Shoppers talk about their plans for the holiday shopping season.
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Shoppers talk about their plans for the holiday shopping season.

Thanksgiving has become a day of thanks, turkeys and early birds.

“Black Friday” is turning into varying shades of a gray Thursday. More stores are no longer waiting for Friday to release deep discounts that have traditionally followed the day after Thanksgiving. Customer demand, coupled with big-box retailers trying to one-up each other, has pushed most stores to open their doors by Thanksgiving night.

Retailers such as Kohl’s, Target, Macy’s and Sears are opening their doors at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Best Buy will open at 5 p.m.

JCPenney opened at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day last year. This year, they will open their doors even earlier, at 3 p.m.

Alan Wilson, a manager at the store, located inside St. Clair Square, said they wouldn’t open that early if shoppers didn’t demand it.

All of the retailers will have promotions. The majority of them have some sort of special running from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and will run the entire gamut.

Square in Fairview Heights

“It’s such a big customer demand,” Wilson said. “We’re just matching the customer demand. It’s really exciting to see the amount of customers that come on Thursday afternoon after their meal with their families. It’s a large response.”

The store will open earlier than its neighbors, including Macy’s, which will open at 6 p.m. Mall spokeswoman Amber Westerson said the mall will open at 6 p.m. on Thursday, but individual stores are not required to open their doors that day. While the smaller shops will close by midnight, the big JCPenney, Macy’s and Sears will remain open throughout the night until 10 p.m. Friday.

It’s such a big customer demand. We’re just matching the customer demand. It’s really exciting to see the amount of customers that come on Thursday afternoon after their meal with their families. It’s a large response.

Alan Wilson, manager, JCPenney in Fairview Heights

“All of the retailers will have promotions,” Westerson said. “The majority of them have some sort of special running from 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and will run the entire gamut.”

Again, Wilson said the customers demand it, so JCPenney will remain open for 31 consecutive hours between Thursday afternoon and Friday night.

“You wouldn’t believe the amount of people who come in the middle of the night,” he said. “It’s really something.”

At Kohl’s in Fairview Heights, store manager Cori Brueggemann said the store has its share of “door-buster” deals available the minute the doors open at 6 p.m. on Thanksgiving. She said audio electronics and health-food juicers and blenders are anticipated to be on many shoppers’ wish lists this year.

“We’re carrying a lot of brands that we normally don’t carry, like Beats By Dre, Fitbit, Jawbone and other small electronic items and toys,” Brueggemann said. “We’re also really focusing on wellness and active items, like fruit juicers and the NutriBullet.”

According to the world’s largest retail trade association, the National Retail Federation, consumers are anticipated to spend more this year than last year, but will remain cautious with their spending.

“We expect consumers will tackle their holiday shopping lists with a healthy dose of optimism, tempered by a hint of caution,” said association president Matthew Shay.

Shay also said although consumers are still challenged by the economy, they will not spend less. In citing NRF’s annual Holiday Consumer Spending Survey, he said shoppers will spend an average of $805.65 on gifts, food, decorations and other items and merchandise during November and December. That is the highest spending amount recorded in the poll’s 14-year history.

The survey also found that average spending amount on gifts for family members will total $462.95, which is up from $458.75 from a year ago and also a record high.

We expect consumers will tackle their holiday shopping lists with a healthy dose of optimism, tempered by a hint of caution.

Matthew Shay, president and chief executive officer, National Retailers Association

“We continue to see positive momentum in retail sales growth, giving us reason to believe consumers will show up this holiday season as they look to take advantage of all of retailers’ promotional offerings,” Shay said. “In an effort to attract all shoppers, from the extremely price-sensitive to the online millennial, retailers will be offering exclusive incentives, low prices, price-matching, top toys and everyone’s favorite, free shipping and buy online pick up in store offers.”

That’s what Belleville resident Mary Jo Warnecke likes about modern shopping, along with the longer store hours and online access.

“I get great deals online,” Warnecke said. “I have it shipped to my house. It’s free shipping and a cheaper tax rate, too.”

Warnecke was shopping for toys at Kohl’s in Fairview Heights on Monday afternoon to beat the coming Thursday crowds.

“I’m buying stuff for my mom, she has 18 great-grandkids under 10, so it’s all toys,” she said. “From Nerf guns to making bracelets to little baby toys.”

She also said that shopping on Thanksgiving Day or the day after is not a trend she has celebrated.

“No, that’s family time,” Warnecke said.

The retail federation’s holiday spending survey found that about 40 percent of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween. Another 41.5 percent said they began in November, while 18.7 percent will put it off until December.

Of those who shop early, 61.4 percent said they shop as early as September so they can spread out their budget, 48 percent say they want to avoid the November and December crowds, and 46 percent do so to avoid the stress of last-minute shopping.

One early shopper traveled Monday from her home in Greenville to shop at Kohl’s in Fairview Heights for those reasons. She not only wanted to beat the crowds, she also found the toys that she had been looking for from a popular Disney movie.

“Frozen is pretty hot with them right now,” she said. “I’ve got four granddaughters, and that’s what I’m getting them. These are for my grandkids.”

But her shopping on Monday will not continue into Thursday or Friday. She tries to finish her shopping before then.

“Won’t do it. Nope. Too crowded.”

Linda Tryon also made a trip to the Kohl’s store Monday from her home in Watson, located near Effingham, to get ahead of the coming holiday crowd. She said she was looking to buy clothes, electronics and books for gifts this year. You also won’t see her there or at any store come Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.

I don’t do Black Friday, mainly because I don’t want to get up that early, although I hear that you can go Thanksgiving night, but I’m too pooped after Thanksgiving. So I’ve never done Black Friday.

Linda Tryon, metro-east shopper and Watson, Ill. resident

“I don’t do Black Friday, mainly because I don’t want to get up that early, although I hear that you can go Thanksgiving night, but I’m too pooped after Thanksgiving,” Tryon said. “So I’ve never done Black Friday.”

JCPenney is not the earliest early bird this year. Kmart stores will open at 6 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Walmart stores are open 24 hours a day, every day, except Christmas Day, but will not unleash their Black Friday sale until 6 p.m. Thursday.

But before people disparage JCPenney for opening Thanksgiving Day afternoon, Wilson said they should know that employees are given the choice not to work that day, and usually enough employees elect to clock in that day and earn double-time.

The company also makes sure workers don’t go without Thanksgiving dinner. He said they provide employees a meal with all of the trimmings from the Boston Market located across the street.

“Thanksgiving is a brew-ha-ha for us,” Wilson said. “We go out of our way to make it a good place to work for them and make it an option for them to work the holiday.”

Wilson said it’s the most exciting time of the retailer’s year, and it keeps coming earlier each year, but only because the customer demands it.

“It’s the customers’ response. The customers have always wanted it earlier and earlier and earlier, and we’re opening two hours earlier than least year. It’s just matching the demand.”

Retailers open on Thanksgiving:

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