Malls prepare for a torrent of shoppers
Published: Monday, November 22, 2010
Updated: Monday, November 22, 2010 23:11
The Christiana Mall is buzzing with preparations for Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when consumers crowd stores in search of the best deals of the season.
Banners line glass windows, advertising future promotions and Black Friday specials. Store managers started interviewing seasonal help applicants weeks ago and are creating new floor setups to help with crowd control.
But Black Friday, like its name suggests, has a darker side. For example, two years ago at a Walmart in New York, an employee was trampled to death by a stampede of eager shoppers.
Fashion and apparel studies professor Sharron Lennon has studied the fervor surrounding Black Friday. Lennon says the crowds, lack of merchandise, long checkout lines, and consumer behavior of the day fascinate her.
She has conducted extensive research on consumer behavior during Black Friday. Lennon and her team have distributed three surveys, done extensive fieldwork and performed content analysis of news articles and ad sites.
"You have these huge promotions that are inflating people's expectations," Lennon says. "They have very unrealistic expectations before they go out, and then they get to the store and there's very little merchandise on sale at the advertised price so they get angry."
According to Lennon, crowding is another one of the leading factors that lead to consumer misbehavior on Black Friday. During her field research, she says she has seen customers putting themselves in danger during the sales.
"There was a woman waiting in line in a wheelchair, there was a woman waiting in line on crutches," she says. "We're talking about big box stores that people rush to get in. You worry about their safety. Especially since that one guy at Walmart was killed in 2008 when he was trampled by shoppers. These people were in effect taking their lives in their hands by going out."
Marques Brown, a RadioShack employee, has worked on Black Friday for the past six years. Crowd control is one of the biggest issues the stores faces each year, and the chaos makes it easy for people looking to steal merchandise, he says.
"People get into fights," Brown says. "Last year we didn't have any fights in the store, but outside the store there are plenty of arguments and people stealing."
In addition to dealing with overcrowding the store and arguments between customers, employees have to be on the lookout for shoplifters as well, Brown says.
"People steal out of shopping bags and off of our shelves," he says. "We had one guy at another store actually walk in and steal a computer bundle and just walk right out with it."
Shoppers like sophomore Samantha Costa say the crowds themselves were enough to make her Black Friday shopping experience an overwhelming one.
"I came two years ago and you could only take baby steps," Costa says. "You felt like you were in a concert arena. Like you were in a crowded concert and couldn't get anywhere. I've never seen anything like it. It took us an hour to find parking."
Lennon is in the process of publishing her research, but offers many suggestions for retail stores. She believes that in order to reduce misbehavior, retailers need to figure out what they can do to reduce the effort that consumers need to put into Black Friday shopping.
She suggests getting rid of coupons, handing out tickets to consumers in line for high-ticket items, posting lists of items out of stock or quantities remaining on the doors, opening more registers, and setting some promotions during the day at later times.
She says that the projections for the turnout for this year's Black Friday are somewhat cautious. Many experts think it will be better than last year's Black Friday because they predict higher consumer volume.
Sophomore David Melnick have already begun to plan what he intends on buying this Black Friday.
"I usually make some sort of plan," Melnick says. "You can just go around, but it's pretty crazy to just go around and it's kinda hard to find stuff. So I always have an idea of what stores I mainly want to hit before I go out."