Put down that turkey leg and go shopping.
That is the message this year, as more retailers push sooner-than-Black Friday sales and midnight or earlier openings, some before the pumpkin pie has a chance to cool. With so much at stake, retailers have been rolling out more approaches to sell electronics, clothing and gifts this holiday shopping season.
Layaway has resurfaced. Black Friday door-busters are being deliberately leaked. And many retailers began offering holiday discounts days or weeks before Black Friday.
“Retailers get about 40 percent of their sales from Thanksgiving to the New Year, so it’s a big time. Given that it’s been relatively lukewarm the past several years, they’re trying to get more attraction this time, doing some new things,” said Sanjay Putrevu, associate dean at the University of Albany’s School of Business.
Consumer confidence has been shaky, and a roller coaster stock market and major financial worries in Europe have consumers on edge.
Offering Black Friday sales earlier applies not only to big box retailers but to local, family-owned businesses as well. At Mainiero’s Appliances & TV in Vineland, the fourth-generation family business began offering pre-Black Friday deals last week, owner Ed Mainiero said.
“It was done by necessity, because most of our larger competitors have been doing that for a couple of years,” he said. “You pretty much play or stay home.”
Mainiero said his Vineland store has fared well through the third quarter this year. So far, it’s been the store’s best year of several.
“We’re in a pretty good position,” he said.
“It can be make or break for the year as far as numbers go. With the way things have been the last few years, you may rely on a strong holiday sell-through to pick your numbers up,” he said.
TD Bank released a holiday shopping poll this month suggesting most consumers plan to spend the same this season as last season. The average expected expense is $670.
The National Retail Federation, or NRF, a retail trade and advocacy organization, expects $466 billion in holiday sales this year. That would be a 2.8 percent increase from last year and about the average for the past 10 years.
High unemployment, rising food and gasoline prices and an erratic stock market will impact consumer spending this holiday, NRF Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz said in a statement.
“How Americans react to shaky economic data is the question,” he said.
Drawing customers in this environment can be tricky. Some major retailers have expanded or reintroduced layaway, hoping to draw customers pinched for or without credit.
And stores nationally are being opened earlier and earlier, in some cases prompting backlash from employees.
“Moving up the (opening) times is the story of this holiday season,” said John Holub, president of the New Jersey Retail Merchants Association. “Retailers want to be the first on the consumer’s mind.”
Professor Putrevu said consumer confidence for the holiday season still could change in the coming month, depending on the economy and the stock market.
Even a steady stock market would help retailers.
“People are looking for stability right now,” he said.
Meanwhile, social media is poised to take on a larger role in holiday shopping. More people have smart phones, and more will use them to communicate with one another in real time.
Many stores offer deals or promotions to customers who friend them on Facebook, Putrevu said. But these types of social media promotions can come with risks.
“Retailers also have to be very careful, because when you think of social media, they tend to think of that as something personal,” he said. “The moment they start feeling the marketers are trying to influence them, it loses some of that value.”
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