By Ryan Bradshaw, Ed.D.
Faculty Member, Retail Management at American Public University
It was 5:15 p.m. on Thursday, November 24. After eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner, we rushed from my family’s home because we had a mission to fulfill. Tomorrow was Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year.
Store Openings Get Earlier and Longer with Each Black Friday
Many retailers now follow a trend to begin Black Friday sales earlier and earlier. In the past 10 years, the trend among retailers has gone from opening at 6 a.m. on Black Friday to opening at 6 p.m. the day before Thanksgiving.
Retailers may also use different opening or closing hours, seeking to extend the available time for customers to shop. Retailers push to be shoppers’ first destination, knowing the lion’s share of the family budget will be spent at that first stop.
Black Friday Shopping Surprise at Walmart
Traditionally, Walmart has been a place where you expect to see a full parking lot and no available carts. Lots of people congregate outside the doors to cash in on door-buster deals.
However, this year painted a different picture. When we arrived at our local Walmart, there were plenty of parking spaces and we were able to grab a cart right away. We simply walked inside and easily navigated our way through the store.
Something was different. Perhaps many customers stayed home to shop with their computers?
Online Shopping Trend on Black Friday Continues to Grow
Along with pushing back the start times of sales, there’s another growing trend over the past decade. More and more people are turning to online shopping in lieu of fighting the crowds in traditional retailers.
The majority of people I polled prior to Black Friday indicated that they would not be visiting brick-and-mortar stores on Black Friday. They preferred to visit online retailers instead, which offer similar – if not the same – deals with the added benefit of free shipping in most cases.
Black Friday associates at three local Walmart stores told me foot traffic was down at their stores. They attributed the change to an increase in online sales.
10 Million More Shoppers Made Purchases This Black Friday Than in 2015
According to a Fortune article, approximately 10 million more consumers shopped online this year compared to 2015. That sharp increase is consistent with the past several years.
Additionally, the National Retail Federation forecasts a greater than 3% increase in consumer spending for both November and December.
With the growth of online shopping comes a whole new set of trends. For example, retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target and Best Buy are trending toward continual “Pre-Black Friday” sales for nearly all of November.
Consumers have access to great buys earlier and earlier. That diminishes sales at the traditional brick-and-mortar retail counterparts.
Retailers Must Rethink How to Offset Losses from Black Friday Online Sales
With early opportunities to save, the convenience and comfort of browsing from home, and the added benefits of free shipping, online shopping gains adherents yearly. Although retailers have done well to adapt to that change, they must rethink how to help offset those important lost sales at their physical locations.
Perhaps the future of physical store retailing could evolve into a showroom where service is key and associates work to help consumers make buying decisions. Only the future will tell.
About the Author
Dr. Ryan Bradshaw is a faculty member in the School of Business at American Public University. He teaches business management, leadership, law, ethics and communication. Ryan’s academic credentials include a B.S. in business administration and a B.S. in criminal justice from the University of Mount Olive, an MBA in marketing from the University of Phoenix and an Ed.D. in educational leadership from Liberty University.
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