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Jennifer Marks

Did Midnight Matter?

Jennifer MarksJennifer Marks
THE FIRST SET OF NUMBERS are in and the verdict on this year's extra early Black Friday store openings is ... mixed.

     JCPenney, which saw its November comps dip 2%, placed the blame squarely on its decision not to open stores until 4 a.m. on the day after Thanksgiving, adding: "Sales remained soft in-store throughout the holiday weekend."
     A note to JCPenney store associates: Plan to eat your Thanksgiving meal early next year.
     Macy's, which cranked out a 4.8% comp gain in November, credited its midnight opening with creating the momentum that propelled a strong holiday selling weekend. The early start "particularly attracted millennial customers who gravitate to the fashion, newness and value in our merchandise assortments," according to Terry Lundgren, Macy's chairman, president and ceo.
     But wait - Kohl's also opened at midnight. Its customers apparently had other things to do (or other retailers to visit?). Kohl's November comps dropped 6.2%. In the company's commentary on the month, it made no mention of the Black Friday event. You'd think if the early opening had propped up an otherwise lackluster month, Kohl's would have noted it.
     Walmart began a rolling series of category-specific door-busters at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving - and wound up headlining the news after a California customer pepper-sprayed 20 fellow shoppers in pursuit of an Xbox. How did the numbers work out? We won't know until Walmart reports fourth-quarter results, but I'd guess its stores had a pretty good weekend.
     Online shoppers didn't let the holiday get in the way of a good deal. Ecommerce sales on Thanksgiving jumped 18% to $479 billion this year, according to comScore. Online Black Friday sales ballooned even higher - up 26% to $816 million. And CyberMonday more than lived up to the hype, generating $1.25 billion in sales, making it the single biggest online sales day in U.S. history.
     All of which creates a question. For the past several years, the weekend before Christmas has actually generated more sales than the Thanksgiving weekend. Does the performance of the midnight sale/Black Friday/CyberMonday cycle portend a shift away from that scenario this year? Or will retailers be even more crazily promotional that weekend to buck up the trend?
     We'll find out about a month from now.

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