The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

November 28, 2013

Crowd Control: Stores prepping for Holidays

By Katie Dahlstrom
Assistant Editor

---- — CLINTON — The only thing that would lure Libe Flack out of her Camanche home Thanksgiving night to shop would be deeply discounted electronics for her children.

Anything else won’t trump spending time with her family on Thanksgiving night.  

“I’m still watching the ads and seeing if it’s worth it or not,” the Black Friday novice said. “I don’t feel like spending my Thanksgiving evening in a store for hours. On the day that people are supposed to be thankful for everything, they’re shoving each other over for the last item of whatever it is they want.”

Customers like Flack aren’t alone and as retailers continue to push the time they let customers into their stores on the holiday evening, they realize they have to appeal more to these customers’ wallets throughout the holidays.    

To kick off the holiday spending, big box retailers are opening earlier and offering more deals this year in hopes of edging out the competition and drawing local bargain hunters to empty their pockets in the stores’ cash registers this Black Friday.  

So far, Wal-Mart, Target and Kohl’s are among more than two dozen major chains that lowered their profit outlooks for either the quarter or the year. A big reason is the expectation that they’ll have to offer huge discounts in order to get shoppers to spend.

The Clinton Wal-Mart is still preparing for an onslaught of customers who want to take advantage of deals as soon as they become available at 6 p.m. Thursday night.

With more rounds of deals to follow, the store has hired nine police officers and is planning to meter the store’s capacity.

“We’ve got it down to such a science that things go pretty smoothly,” store manager Jason Dennis said.

Clinton’s Target will open at 8 p.m. Thursday and stay open until 11 p.m. Friday. Although the local store couldn’t comment on what it expects, a corporate officials told the Associated Press the company also is concerned about customers’ financial woes.

“We continue to see anxiety regarding the economy and the ability to stay within household budgets, particularly among lower and middle-income consumers,” Kathee Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising for Target said.  

Overall, The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to be up 3.9 percent to $602.1 billion during the last two months of the year. That’s higher than last year’s 3.5 percent growth, but below the 6 percent pace seen before the recession.

Despite their corporate counterparts’ hesitation about the shopping season, the Clinton Kohl’s is anticipating a gangbusters weekend as it stays open for 28 hours straight beginning at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving until midnight Friday.

Store manager Shelly Oake, who is seasoned in Black Friday retail management, started receiving phone calls from customers wanting the scoop on lines and shopper-luring deals the week before Black Friday. This year the store has bolstered its stock of electronics, items that along with jewelry are expected to fly off the shelves.

With more shopping hours this year than last, the store added two more associates to its holiday roster, employing 97 associates.

“We’re expecting a great crowd,” Oake said. “Customers really thrive on Black Friday and love coming out for this. We are prepared for everything.”

<\Iz19f”Helvetica”>The Associated Press contributed to this report.