Even Wal-Mart is easing up on Black Friday this year, announcing Thursday that, while it will be open all day on Thanksgiving, Black Friday deals will begin at 6.pm that day. And, the retailer said, once Black Friday deals do begin, they won't end until they sell out. Last year, the retailer offered these "door-buster" deals for just a few days.
Wal-Mart will also offer nearly all of its Black Friday deals found in its stores online, which will start at 12:01 a.m. PST on Thanksgiving.
The retailer said it will still offer discounts, which will not be as drastic as the Black Friday deals, on many items for the whole season. The retailer has "bought deeper" this year than in the past to keep these longer term deals in stock, Steve Bratspies, the company’s new chief merchandising officer, said at a press event Wednesday.
The concept of Black Friday “door busting” is a bit of a bust itself this year, with many retailers instead stretching out promotional prices, starting well before Black Friday and keeping prices low well after. Wal-Mart and other retailers are sacrificing the must-have, must-go effect of the short-term sale in order to compete with Cyber Monday and the general holiday sales model of many online retailers, which have long taken a much looser approach to their sale day by offering access to Cyber Monday deals over the Thanksgiving weekend.
The move to ease off of Black Friday is a decidedly mixed one for brick-and-mortar retailers, though. Door-buster deals have long been quite effective in getting shoppers into stores, and many, of course, pick up other things besides those with the crazy price tags.
But "crazy" has become a negative thing, too, that has often turned the day into a frenzy that in some years created melees, with customers fighting each other for the limited number of items.
Bratspies also said that customers in previous years became confused by multiple days of deep, "door-buster" discounts, not knowing which day was the best time to shop.
With a choice to shop online and avoid such situations, many shoppers have ditched Black Friday. And the day may be hurting many retailers’ reputations, retail expert and futurist Doug Stephens told Retail Dive.
“Let’s not forget that traffic to stores on Black Friday was down last year, with an 11% decline in traffic” said Stephens, author of The Retail Revival: Re-Imagining Business for the New Age of Consumerism and the Retail Prophet blog.
“So one has to wonder: Is this really becoming a question of marginal returns on the tremendous effort that retailers have to put in to promote Black Friday? Is Black Friday as an idea, as a retail concept, is it actually having a net negative impact on the retailers who participate so thoroughly in it? And the news stories of people trampling one another, does it actually have a net negative impact on the brand? It makes you wonder if they should be investing those resources online.”