Landlords, tenants prepare for a Black Friday like no other
Steve McLinden / Shopping Centers Today
Black Friday is fast becoming Black Thursday in U.S. retail this year, with an unprecedented number of stores and entire shopping centers opening at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving night. Dozens of centers have changed opening hours this year to midnight on Turkey Day, some as recently as this week.
CBL & Associates said Monday that all five of its St. Louis area centers would open at that hour to accommodate a growing number of store requests. “And we have put our website editors on alert so we will have the ability to change mall hours elsewhere,” said Barb Faucette, CBL’s vice president of corporate mall marketing. Macy’s decision this season to open all its stores at that hour seemed to spur the push nationwide, said Faucette. “Practically every mall with a Macy’s is opening at midnight. And two-thirds of our centers have Macy’s.”
A total of 15 of the 55 U.S. centers owned by Westfield will be open at midnight Thursday, compared to four last year, the REIT said. The decisions were made on a case-by-case basis, factoring in the total number of department stores, the number of shops requesting to open and demands of the trade area, said Westfield Group spokeswoman Katy Dickey. The REIT was flooded with requests from retailers to open at that hour in 2011 after enjoying sales successes at the four centers last year, she said. “As other retailers continue to announce their own plans for midnight openings, other Westfield centers may be added to the list,” Dickey said.
Taubman Centers has two centers opening at 9 p.m. Thanksgiving night: Great Lakes Crossing Outlets in metro Detroit and Dolphin Mall in Miami Florida, both value-oriented centers that opened at midnight last year. “In 2011, we‘ve seen several outlet and value properties move toward pre-midnight openings along with us,” said Bill Knarre, Taubman’s vice president of regional management. Other Taubman mall opening hours range between 4 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Black Friday. “Over the last two years, we’ve seen an increase in tenants requesting to open at midnight, with of course Macy’s doing that chain wide this year. In these cases, we do open our common areas to accommodate their customers, although we don’t alter our property’s published opening time.”
By contrast, no centers owned by Forest City Enterprises will open on Thanksgiving night, the company said.
This year, BestBuy and most Toys ‘R’ Us are kicking off Black Friday events three hours early, at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Walmart opens at 10 on Thanksgiving, while Macy’s, Target, Kohls, JCPenney, hgregg, Bealls and Parisian, among others, plan midnight openings system-wide. Gap said it will open about 80 percent of its stores at that hour, while Disney plans to open 150 stores at midnight.
On Tuesday, Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn, said more than 100 of its stores will open at midnight on the Thursday, 30 more than were planned a month ago. Simon Property Group’s Sawgrass Mills will open Thanksgiving night at 10 p.m.
It’s not just malls in major markets that are hosting midnight Thanksgiving openings. Valley River Center in Eugene, Oregon, said it midnight opening this year will be mandatory for center tenants. Green Tree Mall in Clarksville, Indiana, will open at midnight Thanksgiving for the second straight year, it said.
Other than expenses from holiday pay and added security, there’s little downside for retailers and centers to open on Thanksgiving night, said consultant Jeff Green, president and CEO of Jeff Green Partners of Phoenix. “In fact, I think we’ll eventually see most stores opening on Thanksgiving, much like what happened with New Year’s Day several years ago,” Green predicted.
While still important, Black Friday sales numbers don’t mean quite as much as they used to, he said. “That’s because they’re spreading things across the season with earlier sales,” he said. “And with the Thanksgiving openings, Black Friday has evolved into a 24-hour-plus retail proposition.” The spreading-out effect likely will result in fewer mad rushes at the door this year, making Black Friday a safer experience, Green said. Accordingly, Westfield’s Dickey said safety and crowd control are prime concerns at its early openings. “Stores have special sale prices that draw a crowd, so working with the stores on how to organize a queue and sell door-buster products in an orderly manner is one of our goals,” she said.
Even if some anchor stores in malls managed by Jones Lang LaSalle do open on Thanksgiving night, specialty shops and other anchors won’t he required to open, said Greg Maloney, CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle Retail, the largest third-party retail portfolio manager in the U.S. However, on Black Friday, the decision to open the entire mall at very early hours is sometimes driven by varying “use” clauses, Maloney said. “If a certain percentage of stores are open, then everyone opens.” Service-oriented stores such as repair shops are exceptions, he said. “One big key is to understand what the retailers are doing and communicate with them,” Maloney said. “The last thing we want is to be surprised on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday.
REITs and others in the industry say they’ve encountered little resistance from retailers on the earlier openings. However, there has been some consumer and employee push-back. As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 100,000 people have signed a petition at Change.org initiated by a Target employee asking the chain not to open at midnight as planned on Thanksgiving. However, Target is not backing down and said the openings make it easier for guests to shop when they want to shop and not have to get up in the middle of the night.
Summarized Maloney: “It’s important to note that what’s driving all of this is consumer demand.”
Compiled by the staff of Shopping Centers Today. © November 16, 2011 International Council of Shopping Centers.