Friday, November 28, 2014

How will West Michigan's retailers fare this Black Friday?

Revenues made in the last six weeks of any fiscal year frequently make the difference between businesses finishing the year in the red as opposed to the black. So there is a lot of interest in Black Friday and the excitement shoppers show (as well as the money they spend) over the long Thanksgiving weekend.

Yesterday many major retailers in West Michigan, including Macy’s and JCPenney, decided to open in the evening to take extra advantage of shoppers’ enthusiasm. Many other smaller stores located in the malls these stores anchor did not, although they were under some pressure from mall management to open as well. The Grand Traverse Mall threatened fines for stores that were not open during the required hours of 8 P.M. Thursday to 1 A.M. Friday.

As of this morning news outlets were reporting that crowds were smaller than last year when stores opened their doors at 5 A.M. Some speculated that this was because even more shopping venues were open even earlier this year so the competition for shoppers was fiercer. It’s possible that black shoppers boycotting Black Friday over the Ferguson grand jury outcome earlier this week may have had an impact as well. Nationwide, African-American shoppers have about $1 trillion in customer clout, some percentage of which is in Grand Rapids which is demographically about 21 percent black.

Of course, many retailers hope that shoppers will keep their money in the local economy by patronizing local businesses. In order to better facilitate this, Local First of Grand Rapids have put together a local treasure holiday box showcasing the products of area entrepreneurs. Local First estimates that dollars spent on local retailers are much more likely to stay within the community and will be filtered through other venues, creating and sustaining local jobs and strengthening bonds within the community and empowering smaller players. For those interested in stimulating the local economy, whether through buying apparel, craft beer, or auto partsSmall Business Saturday is tomorrow, November 29.

Currently there is no real consensus about whether it’s appropriate to open on Thanksgiving. Many people feel that the encroachment of commercialism on a national holiday is wrong. Others love the thrill of bargain hunting no matter when opportunity knocks. It remains to be seen what the impact of either group will be on Black Friday and the bottom line of our local economy in 2014.