Black Friday Creep: Good or Bad for Retail?

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Plans by big-box retailers to open earlier on Thanksgiving Day this year have U-M Ross Marketing Professor Aradhna Krishna thinking earlier about the implications of Black Friday creep.

Krishna has written about Black Fridays gone wrong but thinks these Thursday hours, if handled correctly, could increase happiness for shoppers and profits for retailers. However, they have the potential to repeat past mistakes if handled badly.

Her main concern is early bird deals – advertising a limited number of sale items on a first-come, first-served basis.

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“If stores really care about their customers, they should not do early bird specials during Thanksgiving, or on Black Friday, for that matter,” says Krishna, the Dwight F. Benton professor of marketing. “But if the store is open on Thursday with general discounts, this could help both the consumer and the retailer. People do like to shop when the whole family is together, but many are discouraged by the crowds and the rush to the door at times when they would rather be sleeping. These extended hours could help people have a positive experience and help the stores draw more customers in a more orderly fashion.”  

She says having early bird specials within these extended hours could not only bring back the chaos experienced on Black Fridays, but also create emotional conflicts.

“Families would have to choose between cooking the Thanksgiving meal together or getting the early bird special deals,” says Krishna. In any case, there’s sure to be some backlash from consumers who think opening on Thanksgiving Day violates the spirit of the holiday.

“The goal of Black Friday for the retailer is to create excitement, boost sales, but do so safely,” she says. “If handled correctly, the extended hours can do that.”

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