Inside This Issue - Opinion
In the end, shoppers call the retail shots
November 28th, 2011
by Jeffrey Woldt
One of the most puzzling developments surrounding the traditional start of the holiday selling season was the furor over the decision by many retailers to open their doors at midnight on Black Friday or, in some cases, on the preceding day, Thanksgiving.
Numerous news organizations highlighted concerns about the trend, which was supported by many of the nation’s best-known merchants, including Walmart, Target, Kohl’s, Best Buy and Macy’s. The tone of the reports was captured in a front-page story that appeared in The New York Times two weeks before the holiday:
"Part of the objection is inconvenience. To be at or near the front of the line, shoppers say they will now have to leave home hours earlier — in the middle of the turkey dinner for some. But the wider objections reflect sentiments like those of the Occupy Wall Street movement, including a growing attention to the rights of workers and a wariness of decisions by big business.
"Either way, many in the shop-till-you-drop crowd have had enough of Black Friday creep."
Consumers who share those sentiments, many of whom gave them a vigorous airing in the social media, are entitled to their opinion. They almost certainly chose not to take advantage of the extended store hours.
For others, retailers that offer people the opportunity to shop on a major holiday are providing a real service. Many supermarkets and drug stores have long been open for at least part of the day on Thanksgiving, and for individuals who have overlooked an essential ingredient for dinner or encounter an unexpected need for a prescription medication, that’s a good thing.
Even some general merchandise retailers have a tradition of welcoming customers on Thanksgiving Day. Kmart has done so for 20 years. In most markets its stores were open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. this November 24.
In light of that, it’s hard to see what all the fuss was about. Store operators that opened early on Black Friday or the day before did so because they thought a significant number of their customers would be interested. If the critics are right and it turns out that few people showed up during the extended hours late last week, merchants will no doubt rethink their strategy next year. In the end, consumers vote with their presence and purchases, and they have as much to say about what goes on in the marketplace as anyone.