24-Hour Christmas Shopping

Discussion
Dec 27, 2011
Tom Ryan

After midnight, we’re gonna let it all hang out — J.J. Cale

A handful of major U.S. chains stayed open round the clock last week to chase down last-minute procrastinators.

Macy’s kept 14 of its stores open for 83 consecutive hours through 6 p.m. Saturday. An additional 27 stayed open until 2 a.m. last Wednesday, Thursday and Friday up from nine that operated under “extended hours” last year. On Christmas Eve, many locations extended hours further by closing at midnight with a few open as late as 2:00 a.m Christmas morning.

“Our 24-hour stores have been a hit with holiday shoppers for the past five years,” Ron Klein, chief stores officer at Macy’s Inc., said in a statement.

Macy’s was among the chains that claimed to have benefited over Thanksgiving weekend by pulling back Black Friday openings to midnight.

Toys ‘R’ Us nationwide began an all-day-all-night marathon last Tuesday that continued until 10 p.m. Christmas Eve a day longer than last year’s toy-shopping marathon.

Some Old Navy stores in Manhattan were open consecutive days last week while JC Penney pulled an all-nighter on Dec. 23. Sports Authority and Bealls also held 24-hour shopping sprees just before the big day for the first time.

Other stores, such as Kohl’s, instead chose to extend hours until midnight last week, and stayed open later than typical on Christmas Eve. Both Sears and Target were open until 11:00 p.m. on Dec. 24. Comparatively early closings included Walmart, closing at 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve, and Best Buy, 5:00 p.m.

The extended hours comes amid data from ShopperTrak indicating five of the season’s top 10 sales days occur from Dec. 18 to Dec. 24. Brick & mortars also pick up a host of cyber shoppers in the final days since online orders at a certain point can’t be delivered on time.

A Reuters article found sparse crowds in the wee hours of the morning in some 24-hour New York City stores but also found that both shoppers and employees favored the less chaotic holiday shopping environment. Trutina Financial Chief Investment Officer Patty Edwards told Reuters the big benefit for retailers from all-night-openings was the media attention.

Still, Justin Lahart, economics reporter for the Wall Street Journal, was among those who wondered whether retailer’s ongoing shift towards the “never-close direction” was healthy for the industry.

“The question is, to what effect?” wrote Mr. Lahart in the newspaper’s Overheard blog. “Consumer spending is essentially a zero-sum game people spend what they spend, and that’s that. If all stores decide to stay open 24/7 for the holidays, all they are likely to get is disgruntled employees and higher operating costs. That’s no way to spread the holiday cheer.”

Discussion questions: Are extended hours — including offering 24-hour sessions in the final holiday shopping days — paying off for retailers? What are the pros and cons of extended hours? What’s the likelihood the industry will see another ramp up in extended shopping hours next holiday or even extended hours in other key selling periods of the year?

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12 Comments on "24-Hour Christmas Shopping"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Another way to make the unique experience in store reduced to the 24/7 of online. I agree with Lahart’s point because those employees working late were cogs in either a PR stunt or workforce management.

Roger Saunders
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Many offer incremental sales and added marketshare. These extended hours, however, are more likely to create “promotional” messages for media outlets starved for “local news”.

The consumers’ holiday purse only goes so far. The retail industry won’t increase the size of the purse by +50% by increasing store hours from 16 hours per day to 24 hours. In addition, traffic demand won’t support it.

Invest the money in online sales for the night owls, and give the stores and associates a rest.

Gene Hoffman
Guest
Gene Hoffman
9 years 4 months ago

Are 24-hour holiday shopping days and other caprices that retailers are currently evidencing really paying off save for keeping pace with “the other guy?”

Artistic retailing appears to be sketching its world as it goes, a road to oblivion where there are no conscientious objectors and thereby minimizing the few remaining things that have any established value. Is this the pendulum that is pushing retailing into the pits?

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Only the retailers themselves know if extended hours pay for themselves. I suspect there are probably employees recovering the floor sets after hours anyway, so there may not be that much incremental cost.

Still I feel sorry for store employees.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Extended hours do add to increased sales. That is certainly a plus. However, in my opinion, the major negative is the adverse effect they have on staff because of the hours they are required, not asked, to work. When are we going to put our foot down and say that’s enough? Someone has to become the ombudsman for the retail hourly worker.

Marge Laney
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

I agree with Mr. Lahart that adding hours mostly adds to associate misery. However, on Christmas day the only store that was open near us was CVS, which was packed. Being open to take care of the “OMG, I forgot ****”, proved to be very profitable I’m sure.

Ryan Mathews
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Shopping isn’t a zero sum game because people have the ability — even in tight times — to spend more than they have in their pockets.

Does that justify the overhead of keeping a store open 24 hours? That probably can’t be answered except on a case by case basis.

People wanted to spend this year and, if you were open, you no doubt trapped some dollars and got some advertising and marketing points in the process.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Informal and anecdotal evidence would indicate that sales associates would like to celebrate Christmas with their family and friends, and don’t particularly yearn to awaken at 2:00 a.m. so they can pull the 3:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. shift.

Mel Kleiman
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

The one great thing about extended hours is that it means the floor needs to be manned, which means either more people need to be hired or your present employees get more hours and in many cases overtime.

With today’s high unemployment of hourly workers, this is a least a short-term bright spot.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

And this same quote can go to today’s “Market Share” discussion…”The question is, to what effect?” wrote Mr. Lahart in the newspaper’s Overheard blog. “Consumer spending is essentially a zero-sum game…people spend what they spend, and that’s that. If all stores decide to stay open 24/7 for the holidays, all they are likely to get is disgruntled employees and higher operating costs. That’s no way to spread the holiday cheer.”

This discussion made me think of news clips from Christmas Eve morning showing crowd shopping mass hysteria as people were closing out the holiday season. Watching those clips, I could help but wonder if they were “Merry Christmas” stores or “Happy Holiday” stores. It had to be “Happy Holiday” stores. People wouldn’t behave like that in “Merry Christmas” stores, because those stores promoted the real meaning of Christmas.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

Where are the numbers? Did consumers spend more? Did the retailers that stayed open sell more? Did they sell enough to cover the overhead for the store and employee wages and still make a profit? Did they really capture sales that would have to gone to another outlet staying open? Without the numbers, it is difficult to draw conclusions on individual cases or on the phenomenon in general.

Tony Orlando
Guest
9 years 4 months ago

I just don’t see the benefit of this, as morale suffers, and the incremental money isn’t there, as it has been said above. Only so much money to be spent, so make the very best of the time you are open, and make the shopping experience fun for the customer. Online sales is 24/7, and most folks at 3AM will go online to buy their stuff, instead of going to a store in the cold night.

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