Competition Pushing Stores to Open Earlier
Local malls opening immediately Friday—or even today.
Black Friday shopping, traditionally reserved for the day after Thanksgiving, is creeping into the holiday this year, a phenomenon that has some outraged and others raring to go.
Locally, requests came to Coral Ridge Mall management from the corporate offices of big box retailers, which led to the mall’s midnight opening Friday and Tanger Outlets in Williamsburg touting their “Moonlight Madness” opening at 10 p.m. today.
Gary Russell, a marketing professor at the University of Iowa, said retailers’ early openings are an attempt to compete with online stores. He said e-commerce sales are growing at a faster rate than that of brick-and-mortar stores, so traditional stores feel the need to ramp up their efforts to compete.
“I think that’s an attempt to front-load people, to get them into the stores and buy stuff and get them to not consider the online argument,” Russell said. “I think, frankly, that’s a losing battle.”
Over the years, retailers have slowly moved their Black Friday opening times earlier. In the past few years, only a few have tested the waters with midnight openings, experts say. But this year, the number of midnight openings has gone through the roof, with many jumping on the bandwagon just to keep up with the competition.
It’s the first year Coral Ridge Mall has opened at midnight— up from 6 a.m. in previous years, general manager Monica Nadeau said. Twenty-nine of the mall’s roughly 100 stores will open at midnight, including Target, Best Buy and Younkers.
“We have had a huge demand for it from our national retailers,” Nadeau said. “Just judging by the number of stores that are opening at midnight, we wanted to accommodate their requests.”
Tanger’s 10 p.m. opening is company-wide, a move that was “directed by tenant corporate offices,” said Theresa Phillips, general manager of Tanger Outlets in Williamsburg. All of the stores will open at 10 p.m. today, Phillips said.
Both malls will have in place an array of deals to get people through the doors. At Coral Ridge, that means free coffee and hot chocolate for the people standing in line, as well as 300 free gift cards when the mall opens. Tanger is running similar gift card giveaways and hosting a drawing for a flat-screen TV.
Target has been the epicenter of controversy recently after an employee in Omaha, Neb., started a petition against the company-wide midnight opening. It’s now at nearly 200,000 signatures.
But Kurt Griebel, store team leader for Target in Coral Ridge Mall, said employees were asked to volunteer to work the midnight shift. Finding people to work the shift wasn’t difficult because of the Hawkeye football game against Nebraska at 11 a.m. Friday.
“This was really appealing to people because they can come in and work midnight until 8 a.m. and then they’re off for the game,” Griebel said. “Getting volunteers the midnight shift was pretty effortless for us. It’s a fun little spin for the day.”
Target has opened at 4 a.m. the past few years.
Jordan Creek Town Center in Des Moines, owned by General Growth, the same company that owns Coral Ridge Mall, is no rookie at midnight openings. They’ve been doing them for the past five years, and were among the first in the country to do so, general manager Randy Tennison said.
Last year, more than 30,000 people streamed into the mall right at midnight, he said.
“I remember thinking, ‘If we have 5,000 or 6,000 people, I’d be happy,’” he said. “ We had over 35,000 people come into the mall.”