O'BRIEN: Christmas openings could be the next step in holiday sales

Posted: Nov. 26, 2012 12:53 pm Updated: Dec. 24, 2012 2:15 pm

For many who waited in the long lines and scooped up the big deals, the new Thanksgiving-enhanced Black Friday was a blast. The crowds were generally well-behaved and everyone seemed to have a good time.

Everyone that is, except the people on the other side of the cash register.

"A lot of my coworkers will tell you that we hate (Black Friday)," said a worker at a local big-box retailer who was one of the few whose sales started on Thanksgiving night. "We want time with our families on the holidays. When we saw that they were moving the sale to Thursday, we weren't liking it all."

The night, the worker said, is stress-filled.

"It's more chaotic," the worker said. "You get yelled at to move faster, to get (the shoppers) through. If you're not back up front on time (after a break), they are yelling and hollering for you. Getting off a register to go to the bathroom is a difficult task, too."

Those in charge have no beef with Black Friday. According to ShopperTrak, the world's largest counter of retail foot traffic, foot traffic in retail stores rose 3.5 percent to more than 307 million store visits on Friday alone. That resulted in estimated sales of $11.2 billion, which is actually a 1.8 percent decrease.

"Black Friday continues to be an important day in retail," ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. "This year, though, more retailers than last year began their ‘doorbuster' deals on Thursday, Thanksgiving itself. So while foot traffic did increase on Friday, those Thursday deals attracted some of the spending that's usually meant for Friday."

Unfortunately for those workers, Black Friday isn't going anywhere anytime soon. There could be more bad news on the horizon for those who work in the retail.

Christmas could be next.

"I wouldn't be surprised if places weren't just open all day on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day," said Kimm Minnick, property manger of the Quincy Mall. "I hope it doesn't happen, but it looks like it is going that way."

It's that kind of talk that frightens retail employees.

"That's what we've been hearing for the past two years," the big-box employee said of a Christmas opening for their store. "We are just waiting for the day to happen, and we are dreading it. We have our fingers crossed that it never comes."

Right now, very few places are open on Christmas. A few years ago, the same could be said for Thanksgiving, too. The success of this year's Thanksgiving opening is only going to lead more stores to open their doors.

The difference in Thanksgiving and Christmas is that the later is a religious holiday for most people. Thanksgiving is a time for family, but not in the same way that Christmas is. Most places shut down early on Christmas Eve so that their employees can spend time with families. Would one of them really want to be the first to fling open their doors on Christmas? And if they did, would anyone show up to shop? Could we see the holiday shopping season add the Christmas Crush to Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday?

Only time -- and whether or not we'll show up and open our wallets -- will tell.




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