Retailers Open Extra Early, Tap Into New Technology to Draw in Customers

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Retailers are tapping in to new technology — specifically, smart phones — to boost holiday sales this season. And some are opening earlier than ever to draw in customers.

Catherine Moellering, executive vice president of the trend forecasting company TOBE, said retailers are increasingly thinking outside the "brick and mortar box," by going where consumers are to promote their products.

She said a new trend popping up this season is mobile shopping walls, or strategically placed billboards that allow consumers to instantly scan QR barcodes for more information, or to buy a product.

"What consumers will see is a list of the toys that are most likely to get kids excited, and then they'll see next to the image a QR code that they can scan with their smart phone and they can buy it immediately."

Moellering said Sears and K-Mart are using mobile shopping walls this year.

Other retailers are opening extra early — as early as Thanksgiving night — to bring shoppers in. Moellering said that's a growing trend, and it's also one that just might stick.

"Movie theaters have been open on Thanksgiving Day for years and years and years. So, we made that shift, this might just be the next one," she said. "It might be football, turkey, pumpkin pie, a movie and then a trip to the mall."

Moellering said despite some backlash to stores opening on the holiday itself, it's a response to what customers want. She said she wouldn't be shocked to see stores opening on Christmas Day in the near future.

Black Friday is traditionally considered the kickoff to the holiday shopping season.

Rebecca Flack, with the Retail Council of New York State, said sales this weekend can account for between 10 to 25 percent of a retailer's earnings for the holiday season — but that the Saturday before Christmas is still the busiest.


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