Once again this holiday season has only 26 days between Black Friday and Christmas, last year had 25 days. Shoppers and retailers are preparing for the biggest shopping season of the year. This less than 4 week window has retailers scrambling to grab and retain the consumer’s attention (and pocketbook). They are doing this in a variety of ways.
Macy’s was the first retailer to announce that they would again be open on Thanksgiving Day. The doors at Macy’s will open at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day, two hours earlier than last year’s opening time. The department store chain stated this move was “in response to the significant, sustained customer interest in last year’s opening day on Thanksgiving, both at Macy’s and other retailers.” The Walnut Room, the famous restaurant on the 7th floor of Macy’s State Street store in Chicago, will be open for the first time serving Thanksgiving dinner, also at 6 PM. Maybe this is a start of a new tradition, Thanksgiving dinner followed by shopping? Target, Kohl’s, Sears, and J.C. Penney, along with other retailers have since posted they will also be open on Thanksgiving.
Some consumers state that greed has taken over this holiday; however, others have pointed out that the crowds these stores are receiving justify them being open. Jerry O'Brien, director of the Kohl's Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence, stated that for some people shopping on Thanksgiving Day is no different than others playing football or going to a movie. Conversely, some retailers have opted to remain closed and allow their employees to celebrate the holiday with their families. Costco, Barnes and Noble, and Nordstrom’s are among those retailers remaining closed on the holiday.
Despite the gain in popularity of shopping on Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday still remains the king. According to the National Retail Federation, 2013 store traffic on Black Friday was 92 million people compared to 45 million shoppers on Thanksgiving Day. The high presence of loyalty programs, and the data collected when enrolled in these programs, allow for retailers to pinpoint certain Black Friday offers to a shopper. With offers made via direct mail, social media and email marketing, these campaigns allow the consumer to be well prepared when they arrive at the store.
Toy retailer Toys ‘R Us recently announced a revamped loyalty program for the 2014 holiday season. They have good reason to focus on their 18 million loyalty cardholders, they account for 70% of their US sales. Recently announced, in-store and online layaway programs are now available. As an added incentive to shop even earlier, Toys ‘R Us has offered cardholders 10% off their entire purchase every Saturday during the month of November. This is in addition to loyalty members earning $5 in “R” Us Rewards for every $125 spent. When the “R” Us credit card is used for these purchases, the earnings double to $10. For holiday shoppers with children on their lists these rewards will add up quickly.
Macy’s and Toys ‘R Us have also upgraded their omni-channel features prior to the upcoming holidays. Both retailers now offer Apple Pay. In select markets, Macy’s has implemented Smart Fitting Rooms, fitting rooms with wall-mounted tablets which allow associates and customers to scan merchandise items and see other sizes or colors available. Also, in select markets, Macy’s is offering same day delivery. Consumers can purchase merchandise on the company’s website to be delivered to the store the same day. Toys ‘R Us is offering a similar service. Toys and games ordered online can be picked up in store in less than an hour.
Whether you are working off your second piece of pumpkin pie by racing to the stores Thanksgiving evening, or waking up at the crack of dawn the following morning, rest assured that the stores are ready for you and a few thousand of your friends.