Retailers' 'Black Midnight' Verges on Black-Hearted

At This Rate, Why Even Bother Closing?

By Published on .

What a holiday bonus. Marketers, bent on eking out every last dollar of holiday sales, are dragging Black Friday all the way into Turkey Thursday. So consumers, instead of spending all day giving thanks for what they do have -- like maybe enough cash for a turkey and a roof over their heads -- can rush out to the stores and throw a few elbows fighting for that discounted flat-screen all the while getting themselves deeper into debt.

That is if they aren't retail employees and already down at the store, stuck behind the counter, bracing for the insanity.

The retailers -- including Bon-Ton, Kohl's, Macy's , Walmart, Target and Best Buy -- might be the ones conducting the sales, asking employees to don their khakis and company polos and head out into the cold November night. But they'll be quick to point out that their hands are tied. Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn told The Wall Street Journal he felt forced to "make a very difficult decision" because rivals were doing it. They have no choice. The Street demands numbers, growth, something. And, well, if they back down, the competition is just going to scoop up all those lost sales.

It's almost enough to make a pro-business trade magazine toy with the idea of occupying Wall Street .

According to the Journal, Bon-Ton President and CEO Bud Bergren said the decision to open at midnight was based on customer feedback. As Macy's CMO Peter Sachse told Ad Age last week, it's about turning shopping into "an event" -- a game. It's the "Super Bowl of shopping."

Of course, because the majority of consumers are just dying to go shopping at midnight. Perhaps they picked midnight as preferable to, say, 3 a.m. or 5 a.m., the hours at which many of these retailers have been opening over the past few years.

We'd bet the consumers would rather have all the stores open at a reasonable hour, the shelves and store rooms completely stocked and the sales extended over a longer period of time. That would cut down on the stress and the trampling.

Of course, it might also cut down on the panic-induced grab for higher-margin items while they're in the store for sales. We think the consumer is getting too smart for this decades-old trick of the loss-leading bait and switch. They'll show up for your sale, buy that one item, then go home and wait for another sale -- or shop on Amazon.

But if retailers aren't convinced of that , and are truly interested in basing actions on customer feedback, we have a modest proposal based on anecdotal evidence: Open the doors and let shoppers roam your stores for free, taking what they want at no charge.

At least that way the employees could stay home. And it might even save the retailers a little money on hourly wages.

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