More and more around this pre-Thanksgiving time, the media is filled with stories about retailers opening their doors for Black Friday earlier than the year before. Then there are stories about the backlash — from the employees who say their Thanksgiving Day celebrations are hampered by the need to report to a job that isn’t paying early enough to justify the inconvenience, and supporters who think that it’s heartless for these retailers to commercialize the holiday.
Despite the coverage this issue has gotten, retailers keep opening earlier and earlier, to the point that Kmart will be open for 41 straight hours. Shortly after this marathon opening was announced, CNN had a story that read:
Hundreds of Kmart customers took to social media and threatened to boycott the store if it didn’t reverse its decision, so that its employees can spend Thanksgiving with their families. People called the decision “heartless,” “greedy,” “shameful” and “disgusting.”
There must be a reason that retailers would subject themselves to this type of negative publicity at a time of happiness and goodwill each year.
“Intrepid consumers started lining up Monday at a Best Buy in suburban Akron,” USA Today wrote on Friday. ICYMI: Thanksgiving is this coming Thursday. These people have been lined up since this past Monday.
One customer interviewed in this story, Jonas Allooh, calls it a social event. He camps out with his friends and says he doesn’t even know what he’s going to buy. In fact, the story says he camped out last year until the stores opened and then went home and did his shopping online.
Even those who say they aren’t necessarily there because it’s a rollicking good time say the deals are worth the hassle.
When we think of customers camping out, perhaps the most notorious are Apple fans, who’ll sit for days to get the latest gadget (usually an iPhone). The iPhone 5c and 5S were no different, with a local station in Washington DC reported on the lines in Georgetown.
The value of these lines isn’t just in the money that the customers are going to spend. For Black Friday, the prices are deeply discounted. The show of loyalty, however, has value as well. That customers are willing to wait for them and the opportunity to be in the media showing the demand for what they have to offer is a good thing, from the PR perspective. When these images pop up, all the criticism goes out the window, giving retailers the fuel they need to respond to naysayers.
The only way we’re really going to see the end to the ever-earlier Black Friday openings is when people decide to stay home.