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Early Bird Catches the Customer

openWhy do retail stores open early for Thanksgiving sales? Why do some open even earlier than in past years?

Macy’s started the early rush this year by announcing, on October 16, that they are opening their stores at 8 pm on Thanksgiving night. Days later, JC Penney’s followed suit. Last week, many other big retailers released their big sale day hours, with Walmart, K-mart and Best Buy announcing an even earlier 6 pm start. The next day, Toys R Us outdid them all, saying they will kick off Black Friday at 5 pm on Turkey Day.

There is a lesson in this madness of opening early or staying late.  You may remember hearing from me that, after already working 12 hours, I was “locked in” our family-owned store, Dolgin’s, by my boss – my Mother – because the shelves were not “flush and full.”  The store was not set and ready for the customer who would arrive the next day.

It is important to prepare and be ready for the customer.  You may be required at times to come in early or stay late in order to make it easy for the customer/client to buy your product. As long as you are already going to be in the store preparing for a big sale the next day, why not be open?  This was the original logic by Walmart and Target.

Dolgin’s did this years ago. After a busy Saturday, if we needed to come in on a Sunday to stock the shelves, we would go ahead and unofficially unlock the doors, which usually resulted in a “land office” business on a day when other stores were closed.  That extra day gave us added value in the customer’s eye—we were the “early bird.”

The early bird gets the customer.  The business person who works the hardest or the craziest hours or creates a product beyond the customer’s expectation is the one who gains or retains a customer. Retailers opening earlier than the competition could be their differentiating value in the customer’s eyes.  5 pm may be the earliest any retailer will open on Thanksgiving Day (this year). They hope they will be the Thanksgiving bird that catches the customer.

What will be next? Will retailers choose to be open all day and serve turkey and dressing to the customers shopping on Thanksgiving Day? Harvey Mackay says that entrepreneurs succeed by finding new approaches to old challenges. Catching the customer early puts dollars in the register.  The Early Bird catches the worm.