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Kiss Black Friday goodbye

| Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Audrey Guskey is an associate professor of marketing at Duquesne University and a national expert on consumer trends. She spoke to the Trib regarding what consumers should expect during the Christmas shopping season.

Q: More retailers plan to open their doors on Thanksgiving this year than ever before. Are we witnessing the impending demise of Black Friday?

A: I like to say, β€œLet's have a little shopping with your turkey.” This trend is completely revamping and restructuring the shopping season.

Back in the day, stores didn't even open on Black Friday until 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. Then it was Christmas creep, a little earlier and earlier, until they were open at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. Then they started opening at midnight, and the next thing you know they started opening on Thanksgiving evening.

Macy's for the first time in their 155 years is opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, Target and Best Buy are open at 6, etc. Now that it's happened, unfortunately there's no going back from it.

Q: Do you see the day arriving in the near future when Black Friday essentially is no more? A day when most retailers keep regular business hours on Thanksgiving?

A: We are moving in that direction very quickly. The magic, the luster, the door-buster sales are diminishing, and a lot of stores like Wal-Mart and Target are offering pre-Black Friday sales around Halloween.

I think for the next five years, maybe 10, there still will be a significant number of people shopping on Black Friday. But it's going downhill because people have so many other alternatives β€” and keep in mind we haven't even talked about online shopping.

Q: With so many retailers opening on Thanksgiving, do you anticipate a particularly robust holiday shopping season this year?

A: Actually, no. The National Retail Federation is predicting a 3.9 percent increase over last year, which is about average. I think the average over the past 10 years has been 3 percent, maybe 3.5. I think we are barely going to get 3 percent.

Q: Why the pessimistic prediction?

A: The economy is very tough, people are concerned about their job security, they are concerned about family medical expenses, they are concerned about a lot of things. People have not been spending at all in 2013.

Q: Do you see any bright spot for retailers?

A: Online shopping will keep retailers merry. We will be seeing (considerable) increase there, double-digit percentage increases there, but that's not a surprise. The past 10 years, we've seen 10, 12, 15 percent increases over the previous year.

Online shopping started as this small little trickle, but now the hose is running as more and more sales are being made online.

Q: So the positives of the Christmas shopping season pretty much will be restricted to online purchases?

A: I like to think the fact that consumers are being conservative in their spending and more conscious of their purchases (indicates that) maybe people are getting back to what Christmas should be about β€” celebrating the birth of the Lord with your family.

Maybe family is becoming more important, rather than buying these exotic gifts that are putting people into debt until February or March or April.

Eric Heyl is a staff writer for Trib Total Media (412-320-7857 or eheyl@tribweb.com).

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