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Black Friday evolving and small businesses are benefitting

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 3:29 PM CST
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Black Friday has evolved over the last decade, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began and it has created a mindset that is benefitting small businesses.

Looking back at coverage from 2013, big box stores in the Wausau area saw long lines and people camping out long before stores would open to get the one-day deals on Black Friday. The tradition of major retailers opening their doors in the early morning hours began about 20 years ago. Then about 10 years later, some began opening on Thanksgiving day, though many stores have ixnayed that this year given consumer scrutiny about being open on a holiday meant for people spending time with their families.

“Now, they’re pretty much having the whole month, almost, of November,” Ricardo Boeing, an associate professor of marketing at UW-Stevens Point said.

As expected, the Black Friday shopping holiday and the extension of that single day is about stores being able to make a profit. This year, labor shortages, global supply chain issues, trade tariffs mixed with a high demand for products and more money in many people’s pockets mean retailers and shoppers are feeling an impact this holiday season.

“Even if you get your product at the port, you’re going to have some kind of delay getting to the store and because of that reason, most stores are not getting the, you know, extra incentive to get a lot of deal or put a lot of items on sale,” Boeing explained.

He said last year, retailers generally provide discounts between 10-30% off and this year, the prediction is anywhere from 5-25%.

Then, there is the continuation of the pandemic, which got more people online last year even ahead of Cyber Monday -- another marketing holiday promoting online sales that has only grown since it began nearly two decades ago. Boeing said many people are sticking with that mode of shopping this year, especially if they do not see what they are looking for in their local stores.

“There’s a blend. People are going to shop online, but I’ll tell you, there’s a climate right now in this community and, I think most small communities like Wausau, that people want to spend locally with their merchants and support their small business community,” Dave Eckmann, the president, and C.E.O. of the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce noted.

That consciousness has increased following some of the challenges small businesses saw as the pandemic hit last year. Michael Witte, the executive director of the Portage County Business Council said he has seen businesses get really creative to bring in shoppers this season.

“The downtown business association, for example, has a passport. It actually started last weekend and it goes through this weekend. So, they’re doing a lot of different things to create the excitement for the shoppers.”

Eckmann said small businesses do see some impact with supply chain issues; the businesses might have things in stock now as they have prepared for the holiday season, but as the stock of items dwindles it could be difficult to replenish the shelves. His recommendation is to shop early and be kind to the small businesses, many of which are facing staffing shortages at one of the busiest times of the year.

“People have to have patience. There is a labor shortage... So, as you’re out and about dining and you’re shopping, have a little grace and patience.”

If you are having trouble figuring out what to give someone or you find yourself unable to get a particular gift in time for the holidays, several chambers in north-central Wisconsin offer gift cards that can be used at shops and restaurants in their coverage area. Eckmann said they are close to selling a million dollars in gift cards for this season alone.

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