For more than 30 years, retailers have banked on the bonanza of shoppers flowing into stores as soon as the Thanksgiving turkey and trimmings became afterthoughts.
The so-called Black Friday shopping holiday – referring loosely to the day when retailers’ profit margins climbed out of the red and into the black on the biggest Christmas shopping day of the year – became so big that stores would offer price breaks that attracted crowds of shoppers who ran into stores at 2 a.m. to gobble up the deals.
However, online shopping, the perception or reality of supply-chain problems and the pandemic have morphed expectations of Black Friday as a retail event, according to interviews and a recent survey by Washington State University.
“Over the past three years or so, we are really starting to see that the idea of Black Friday, as this big event to go out and do shopping, is really starting to decrease,” said Eric Hollenbeck, communications manager for research at WSU’s Carson School of Business.
For the past five years, the college has surveyed shoppers in the Pacific Northwest about their concerns and likes regarding the Christmas-shopping kickoff.
For instance, Hollenbeck noted four years ago some 30% of respondents said they looked forward to Black Friday deals all year long. But in 2020, that number dropped to 25% and remained that way this year.
“Last year, we looked at how consumers felt about stores being open on Thanksgiving Day,” Hollenbeck said. “Some 83% of the survey respondents said they were unlikely to shop on Thanksgiving day if it was open.
“We are starting to see that also reflected in which stores are choosing to stay open,” he continued.
Indeed, a nonscientific survey showed that most Spokane-area shopping centers will be closed on Thursday.
NorthTown Mall and Riverpark Square will be closed, while Spokane Valley Mall was listed as open.
Several other major retailers, including Target, Costco, Walmart, Lowe’s, Home Depot and Best Buy, all will remain closed on Thursday.
Several local businesses, including The General Store, Rosauers and Auntie’s Bookstore, will also be closed.
But for residents who need last-minute dinner items Thursday, Spokane-area Safeway, Yokes Fresh Market and Fred Meyer stores will be open.
Virtually all of the listed stores open at either normal time or early hours on Black Friday, but none earlier than 5 a.m.
Travis Whalen, assistant manager at a local Fred Meyer, said the store has remained open on Thanksgiving all of his 18 years with the company.
And unlike years past, the store is flush with turkeys.
“We usually sell out of them by Monday. But we have tons of frozen turkeys and tons of fresh ones,” he said. “We are having no supply issues of any kind this year.”
Miles Barany, store manager for The General Store, said closing for the holidays has always been a benefit to its workers.
“For us, being closed on Thanksgiving is the norm,” Barany said. “But I have been hearing a lot of different stores being closed. I don’t know if it’s a trend from COVID days from last year, but I imagine it’s a way to give back to employees who worked during the pandemic.”
While fewer retailers will open on the holiday, 58.3 million Americans are still expected to shop in-store and online from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, according to a November survey from the National Retail Federation.
With extensive media coverage of the supply-chain bottleneck at U.S. ports, some shoppers responded by purchasing items earlier in the year. Some of that sentiment showed up in the WSU survey, Hollenbeck said.
“Some 44% of respondents were more interested in shopping in-store because it was easier to find things they were looking for or to find gift ideas,” he said. “Being able to go into a store is a lot easer than sorting through the online-shopping” and possible delivery delays.
As part of the survey of about 1,700 people from Washington, Idaho and Oregon, a vast majority said they would support local Spokane-area businesses, Hollenbeck said.
“In the Spokane and Coeur d’Alene area, 75% said they are more likely to purchase holiday gifts from local businesses, compared to 70% in the Portland area and 68% in the Seattle area,” he said. “Overall, I think it’s very encouraging for Spokane and Coeur d’Alene-area businesses.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.