Thoughts about Black Friday



by … Chuck Pithy



Because of my work schedule, it has been several years since I have done the bargain hunt of Black Friday.  I guess we will need to call it Black Week, because many stores started on Thursday evening and are continuing through the weekend.  The grand and glorious shopping excursion started at 6:30 p.m.  Thanksgiving evening with first stop being Walmart.



Walmart:


By the time we arrived the store had been open for about 45 minutes and their 6:00 pm door busters specials were already gone.  You could see the empty spaces where the big screen TV’s had been stacked up.  I did not ask for a raincheck because they were not items I wanted and I would rather someone who was really looking forward to that large purchase be able to enjoy it on Christmas.  I spoke to several people who were in line to check out and all of them were in a good mood.  I do want to commend Walmart for the way they prepped for the large crowd, the way the checkouts were handled and that there was more than enough staff there to take care of customer questions. My observations was that most carts were full of less priced items, but that maybe because it was families shopping.



JC Penny


We got to Penny’s just as the doors were opening.  The staff could not have been nicer, everyone smiling, engaging and they even gave out candy canes as you came in.  The one knock I have is that some of the pictures in their flier were not 100% representative of the items on sale.  Checkouts were well organized and staffed.  Because we did not stay long it was difficult to determine what the purchases consisted of.



Shopko


Shopko is a Wisconsin chain discount department store similar to a Kmart.  We arrived there about 30 minutes after the doors opened.  Because of the toys and small item electronics there were many family shoppers there.  While there certainly were shoppers on a mission to get certain items, everyone was friendly and nice to other shoppers.  Once again what I saw in carts were lesser priced items, very few new gaming systems or big screen TV’s.  It appeared that the economy was both hurting and helping Shopko.  It may have hurt them due to fewer large ticket items, it may have helped due to more budget shoppers taking advantage of deals. Checkout was planned out well and directed by employees, with a line process where you were sent to the next available checkout.



Younkers


Younkers started as a Wisconsin department store which was purchased by the Bon-Ton company which owns several other department store chains.  The flyer they put out listed many items, but certainly what their big draw was inexpensive boots and shoes.  The price on these items were $19.95 and it certainly filled that section of the store.  Their plan for the crowd was extremely poor and bordered on dangerous.  The rest of the store was a typical weekend shopping type crowd.  The checkout situation in the shoe department was horrible, I would not recommend them.



We concluded our shopping Thursday evening about 10:30 pm and set the alarm to venture out by 6:00 a.m.



Cabelas


We started on Friday morning at Cabelas. We were denied access to the store because we had our 13 week old teacup poodle with us.   They explained that because they had a deli they could not allow her in the store.  It was 5 degrees outside and we could not leave her in the car. Their house, their rules, but we did not purchase anything there.



Gordman’s


I am not sure how to describe this store other than it had a bit of everything with all items discounted from retail.  We arrived about an hour after they opened and were given a shopping bag where anything inside the bag was discounted 25%.  Because of their flyer, there were specific items we wanted, along the way we added other items and we filled our cart.  The line for checkout wrapped around the perimeter of the store  1 1/2 times and took over 2 hours to check out.  The value of their items contributed to many shoppers having two carts, but they need to rethink their checkout situation next year.  In their defense the store has only been open 3 months so it was their first Black Friday.



Menards


Menards is a midwest home improvement chain like Home Depot or Lowes.  I arrived there at 8:30 a.m. and they opened at 6:00 a.m.  There were two door buster items I was interested in and they had both items I wanted.  The volume of shoppers in the store was not different than a typical Saturday morning.  They had a staff person at almost every aisle and they were greeting everyone and smiling.  By what I had witnessed, it did not seem that Black Friday was a huge success, but not being there when the doors opened, I can’t say for certain.



JoAnn’s


This is a fabric/craft store chain and is very popular with women.  Upon arrival I went to the cutting counter and got a number to get our fabric cut.  They were on number D85 and my number was E60 so it gives you an idea of how many people were taking advantage of the door buster sales.  This store is always busy on black Friday and yesterday was no different.  They did a good job with checkouts and it was orderly as usual.



In conclusion, I think the retailers will say the dollar volume of Black Friday sales are disappointing  but they will defend them due to lost sales on the east coast with the winter storm. Watch for a positive media spin to make people feel good about the economy and to make us feel guilty if we are cautious with our dollars.  While it is easy to say Jesus is the reason for the season, it is difficult to balance that against those big eyes of an 8 year old when they see all those presents under the tree.



I am Chuck Pithy and I tell it like it is.



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