Home > Consumer Behavior & Trends, Holiday Shopping, Retail > BIG on the Street: Black Friday, Part II

BIG on the Street: Black Friday, Part II

So I’ve mentioned that I continued Black Friday tradition this year by shopping with my best friend and her mother. Now, her mother didn’t join us for our Target excursion; instead, she headed to the mall to stake out Bath & Body Works (B&BW), also opening at midnight. Our B&BW target was the annual VIP bag, a purchase-with-purchase special for the day that included a variety of fun, I-don’t-really-need-these type of items (which *ahem* were a bit leaner compared to the 2010 bag and most noticeably did not include last year’s coupon for $10 off a $10 purchase).

However like moths drawn to a flame, we Black Friday shoppers needed this “deal.” And, given the line at Target, we didn’t think we’d make it over to the mall in a sufficient amount of time. My friend’s mother was sent to B&BW with instructions to grab some of their $10 three wick candles (enough to use a $10 off $30 coupon and qualify for the VIP bag). Much to our surprise though, by the time we made it out of Target (12:25pm) and over to the mall, my friend’s mother was still in line at B&BW! Yes, that’s right, our shopping trip to Target was quicker than B&BW.

Thus concluded our destination Black Friday shopping until 5am, when Toys R Us would tempt us my friend back with a new round of deals. To be perfectly honest, I find it hard to recall all of the details of this four hour timespan; perhaps this is where a few hours of pre-shopping sleep would have been beneficial. I actually had to check my receipts to see where I was and what I bought (just slightly reminiscent of The Hangover­). During this time, we stopped at Macy’s (used $10 off $25 and $20 off $50 coupons for a couple of gifts). At 2:30am, I purchased a crystal gingerbread man ornament with a $10 off $10 coupon at Elder-Beerman. (You can categorize that purchase under “Strange Items One Buys in the Wee Hours of the Morning on Zero Sleep”).

Hungry for deals? At the food court. (click to enlarge)

At some point during this time period, we did refuel at the food court, which was crowded with people. I think that this was one of the biggest differences I noticed this year compared to past. Traditionally, I think when you head over to the mall at – say – 4am on Black Friday, you don’t begin to feel really hungry until 7 or 8am, after you’ve hit your destinations. This year, I felt that a lot of people (i.e. teenagers, other youngsters, non-serious Black Friday shoppers, window shoppers, and other “roadblocks”) went to the mall to hang out for an hour or two – and to grab a bite to eat. So the mall was crowded, but the stores within the mall were manageable – somewhat like busy weekend traffic. When I explored Gap, associates were straightening clothing stacks; we saw the same scene at The Children’s Place, American Eagle, and a few other stores that opened extremely early. I didn’t even have to wait in line at Elder-Beerman to buy my crystal gingerbread man – which helped to make this a completely impulsive purchase.

Scene at the mall, about 3am. (click to enlarge)

The “sad” part about shopping so early on Black Friday is that, while we scored some great deals at Toys R Us, Target, and B&BW, we missed the 5am and 6am openings of several specialty stores (including my personal favorite, The Limited). And by 4am, I was so desperate for caffeine that I waited in line for Starbucks to raise their gate. At 5am, we were nearly cooked. Our shopping excursion ended with a stop back at Toys R Us (where the checkout line was infinitely shorter than during their 9pm opening) as well as Walmart, which was empty (not merchandise-wise, but people-wise). At Walmart, not only did my friend find the items that she was after, but we walked right up to the checkout. I was shocked to see that they were even polishing the floor of the optical center. (The lesson here: if you aren’t in need of a doorbuster, wait for the initial crowd to dissipate).

In the past, it’s been tradition for us to enjoy a 9am lunch post-Black Friday shopping and call it a day. This year, though, we were so tired after our last stop that we couldn’t even fathom making it until 9am. Maybe next year!

I’d like to conclude this post with the following thoughts on this year’s Black Friday shopping experience:

–  The Buddy System Rules: Late Thanksgiving openings meant that a lot of shoppers (including yours truly) were pulling all-nighters to procure their deals. Shopping with a group kept us motivated, prevented us from falling asleep in line (and behind the wheel), and increased gift finding/buying efficiency.

–  Browsers Need Not Apply: If your goal for Black Friday is to look around and people-watch, perhaps you should find some better entertainment and roam the mall on another day. Taking up valuable parking spaces, clogging aisles, and usurping benches really only irritates Black Friday shopping pros.

–  Know Your Sales: Brush up on sales, deals, and offerings before you head to the store and have your non-expired coupons in hand (and not buried in the bottom of your pocket or purse) at the checkout. Those behind you in line will be grateful for your efficiency.

–  Night Owls Got the Doorbusters, but Early Birds Still Found Worms: It was truly physically impossible for our group to begin at 9pm on Thanksgiving and shop past 6am the next morning. Unless you were looking for a doorbuster at Target, Walmart, Toys R Us, or one of the other stores opening up on Thanksgiving, beginning at 5/6am on Black Friday still afforded you a lot of deals, a few hours of sleep, and un-ransacked merchandise at those specialty stores that didn’t herald a midnight opening.

–  Remember the Spirit of the Season: Getting up early or staying up all night makes it easy to get a case of the cranky-pants. Dial down the tension and recall that [most] shoppers are in the stores to GIVE this season. If you have to fight with a fellow shopper to save few bucks on that perfect present, that present really isn’t perfect, is it?

Remember, for more Black Friday insights, you can head over to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Headquarters.

©2011, Prosper®

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