Just prior to Thanksgiving, the Chain Store Guide editorial team combined to produce a white paper analyzing the history and current status of Black Friday, finishing with a look into the phenomenon of its continued creep into expanding store openings on Thanksgiving Day.  It was titled Black Friday: An In-Depth Look at Chain Store Guide’s Expectations for Retail’s Biggest Season.

Upon researching the relevant issues, it became clear that many prominent chains, which had long promoted refusals to open on Thanksgiving Day, had reversed this course in recent years.  At first, retailers such as Target and Best Buy had begun to open stores late Thanksgiving night, approaching midnight.  It seems the Black Friday “creep then came into play, with Thanksgiving openings seemingly being scheduled an hour or two earlier during each successive year.

This year a prominent retailer entered the ‘opening on Thanksgiving Day’ fray for the first time and they did it with aplomb.  Rather than quietly entering the competition with a late night opening, RadioShack announced that most of its stores would commence Thanksgiving operations at 8AM and remain open until midnight.  This bold entry into physically expanding Black Friday to encompass virtually all of Thanksgiving was clearly the result of RadioShack’s considerable history of rough financial results.

The decision to open for the entire day of Thanksgiving however, resulted in somewhat of a social media rebellion as a number of temporary associates listed complaints as to working conditions at RadioShack. These centered on the requirement of having to give-up much of the family centered day for work.  While these associates were entitled to a holiday pay differential, their managers were not.

With so much negative employee emotion surrounding the retailer’s first Thanksgiving Day opening, RadioShack management relented and cut back on suggested Thanksgiving store hours to then close at noon and reopen from 5PM to midnight.  At the same time, many of the troubled chain’s stores continue to list holiday season hours for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as TBA.

Many associates fear they will be working during these normally precious personal hours.   These associates indicated that the decision behind initiating Thanksgiving Day store hours this year was due to consumer demand from the previous Black Friday, as shoppers had questioned as to why RadioShack would not celebrate Black Friday a day earlier as they did with other retailers.

Visits to several RadioShack stores in New York on Thanksgiving weekend resulted in interestingly positive feedback from store managers.  Several were sold out of many of their most popular Black Friday offerings.  Others indicated that what wasn’t sold out was generally due to the demographics of their customers emerging from distinct communities.  In fact, a store manager in Florida indicated that he had a similar finding and had to ship some product from his strip mall-based store to a nearby mall which was desperate for these bargains items.

Interestingly, while visiting a Best Buy in midtown Manhattan, near touristy Times Square, shoppers had to wait in a considerable line around the corner just to enter the store.  Then they had to walk around cordoned off aisles, just to approach an area of products.  Many had to wait in line to enter said aisle and then line-up to check out.  Here associates suggested shoppers return to the main level in hopes of a quicker checkout.  Employees seemed positive but many were likely new seasonal hires and needed help to simply quote promotional prices or explain the differences between seemingly similar items.

Of course, RadioShack offers far less of a variety of product than Best Buy, however for many commonly sold items, RadioShack offered identical prices.  As both retailers were promoting price matches, offered prices were really not an issue.  Thus the trip to any of the numerous, neighborhood based RadioShack stores offered a speedy in and out experience after a generally much shorter commute.  In fact, the line approaching many of Best Buy’s aisles likely required more time to complete than an entire trip to a RadioShack.

While early results from this past Black Friday weekend across the retail spectrum seem a bit down from last year, a RadioShack store manager in Florida smiled when he discussed his store’s experience.  He beamed as he pondered the event.  He stated that he had needed to be open on Thanksgiving Day based on strong customer feedback from the previous Black Friday.  While some anticipated few shoppers would show on Thanksgiving morning, he stated there was a considerable line awaiting his store opening at 8AM.

As to the success of the event for his RadioShack location, this manager grinned when he proclaimed that he is looking forward to greeting the early morning crowd next Thanksgiving.  As to managers not being paid extra for working this holiday, he happily noted that his pay is based on store performance and again shared his happy anticipation for next year’s opening.