Retailers prepare for Black Friday, UMass students don’t

By Kristin LaFratta

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It is almost that time of year again – a time when retail stores everywhere brace themselves for an army of savvy, skilled shoppers ready to attack discounted products. Black Friday, the day following Thanksgiving when commercial retailers offer extended hours for promotional deals and discounts, is quickly approaching. While stores are meticulously preparing for a barrage of shoppers, UMass students appear to have a less strategic approach.

Steve Rhodes/ Flickr

Freshman Mariah Girouard has had some Black Friday experience, though she does not believe in planning.

“Just go wherever the crowds go, that’s where the deals are,” she said. “I’m just going to go with the flow…I’m little, I’m very good at maneuvering through crowds.”

Girouard added that last year she fell asleep at a Kohl’s waiting for friends after she had spent all her money. “You do things you wouldn’t normally do,” she said.

The success or failure of Black Friday is often an indicator to stores as to what their holiday season sales will look like. Many stores plan well in advance for the day in the hope of selling as much merchandise as possible.

“We’ve had to stay after we’ve closed in order to fill the store and restock everything out on the floor and under-stock tables so we have everything out for Black Friday,” said American Eagle Outfitters employee and Stylist Associate Melissa Pennicka. With over 900 locations, the popular young adult clothing chain has added extra shifts in the few weeks leading up to Black Friday for preparations.

Employees at both GameStop and Bath and Body Works say that overstaffing is the main way their stores deal with Black Friday shoppers.

Bath and Body Works employee Catherine Kingsbury said the fragrance store has a “zone” system for top customer service.

“We have a ton of associates working so that we can like answer questions, help with coupons, sell things,” Kingsbury said. “But we don’t have crowd control, really.”

Pennicka said American Eagle employers have a similar system. “The company sends us a map of where you should have employees,” she said, adding that cashiers and greeters are essential, as well as managers “floating” around the store.

Overstaffing and floor guiding tape, such as the Bath and Body Works system of evenly-spaced red dots that customers are asked to stand on, are implemented in order to prevent confusion and overcrowding of customers.

However, some of these preemptive measures may seem unnecessary to some.

“Usually you just go in a store and see what you like,” said freshman Katelyn Richards.

Richards added that she went to Kohl’s and Wal-Mart on Black Friday last year.

“The Wal-Mart was insane. People were lining up hours before like you see in the news,” she said.

Managers at commercial stores such as Target, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Best Buy were unwilling to speak about their stores’ preparations for Black Friday.

Senior student India Mankes said she does not participate in Black Friday or support any commercial corporations during the holiday season.

“When I do Christmas shopping, I do it from independent boutiques like Etsy and eBay because they’re like independent sellers, instead of like giving money to corporations that clearly don’t need our money this time of the year,” Mankes said. She added she would shop on Cyber Monday – Black Friday’s online equivalent – but only from independent stores.

Target employee Danielle Smith said she feels the day “is a little ridiculous.” She is happy that it is illegal for retailers to operate on Thanksgiving in Massachusetts, unlike the neighboring states such of Connecticut and New York, where stores may open as early as 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day.

“It’s this weird mob mentality,” Smith said, referring to customers on Black Friday. “People are very demanding and very rude, and they kind of forget what common courtesy is sometimes.”

American Eagle Outfitters Shift Leader Manager Mia Goshia looks forward to the ordeal.

“It’s my favorite day,” she said. “There’s just so much going on, so much craziness, I love it.”

Kristin LaFratta can be reached at [email protected]