Black Friday changing, but IU retail expert says it’s not going anywhere

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As many Hoosiers head out to shop after chowing down on some turkey, retail experts predict big Black Friday sales both in store and online.

This year, stores are doing more than the traditional Black Friday deals. Many are turning to websites and mobile apps for additional promotions, as well as in store experiences beyond the norm.

"I’ve noticed that all week, (places) have been having good deals," shopper Kristi Zunis said.

IU Kelley School of Business's John Talbott said it is a new challenge for stores to cover all their bases. Some opted to close on Thanksgiving this year, but others stuck with their early Black Friday promotions.

"Most major retailers today, and even small retailers, are effectively open on Thanksgiving because of their websites," Talbott said.

Talbott said that Black Friday isn't going anywhere, in part because it is still such a huge revenue generator for companies.

"They’re under pressure from investors to deliver and fourth quarter is a big chance to do that, so I don’t think they are in a position to take any chances," Talbott said.

At Walmart on County Line Road, deals were being rolled out first on the store's mobile app, then at 12:01 a.m. online, and at 6:00 p.m. in store on Thursday.

"I think it’s provided a convenient experience for the customer, so they’re able to shop when they want, (and) when it’s convenient for them," manager Gina Nicholson said.

Nicholson added that Walmart is providing "Holiday Helpers" this year, in order to streamline the check out process and try to prevent shopping headaches.

"You should go into the stores and see associates in bright yellow vests, easily identifiable, and they’ll be directing customers to the shortest lines," Nicholson said.

Talbott predicted that the focus in the coming years would turn to those kind of positive in-store experiences, as well as things that will pull in customers who are turning online for many purchases. Rachel Montgomery is one of them.

"I (shopped) the last two years but I’m not doing it this year. It’s just too chaotic and hectic, not going to do it," Montgomery said.

"Companies will make a special effort to have a differentiated experience in their stores," Talbott said. "Retailers are going to work harder to make it more fun, not just about great deals."

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