The New Black Friday & The Death of Retail

So another holiday shopping season has started and the lauded Black Friday has come and gone in the retail industry.  I can recall back to my younger days when I worked retail and dreaded Black Friday.  I can remember having to get up at 3:00 AM to go to work since the store was opening at 6:00 AM and you had to go and get everything ready.  I can remember when they would open the doors and the flood of people trying to get in to grab some of the best deals of the season.  Stock would fly off the shelves in record time and it would take days for inventory to recover.

Gone are the days where people waited in line for 2 days for the amazing Black Friday sales.  Now many stores open on Thanksgiving Day and the bargains are not so much bargains anymore.  I can remember a family tradition my wife and I started where we would drive around just to see the lines of people waiting to get into places like Best Buy and Toys R Us.  You would see hundreds of people and lines that would wrap around to docking bays behind building.  It was a festive affair as news crews and radio programs would be on site and employees would be passing out snacks and hot chocolate.

We drove by these stores this year in the early afternoon.  There were maybe 3 tents outside Best Buy and no one outside of Toys R Us.  These stores and even the shopping malls opened a 6:00 PM on Thanksgiving Day and were even open through 1:00 AM Friday morning.  We even drove to the mall at 9:00 AM on Black Friday to find plenty of parking still available where in years past, you would have been lucky to find a spot in the grass to park.

Even the deal busters seem to be gone this year.  Many of the Black Friday ads showed only minor discounts of maybe 20% here, 25% there.  Much of the higher discounts were on low ticket items that didn’t mean much.  Gone are the deals where you could get high end TVs at 75% off which is what drove people to the stores in the first place.  Even looking at Cyber Monday the deals just didn’t wow me this year.  Many of the discounts were just free shipping or just a few dollars off which really didn’t make me want to buy right now.

I guess it shows that the retail industry as a whole is really continuing to struggle.  I would expect many of the long time retail chains such as Sears and JC Penney’s will not survive to see another season as there is a lost touch of focusing on driving customers to your store and getting them to buy.  Of course much has changed in this day and age.  No longer do you see dedicated sales employees as the idea of commissions employees has almost all but faded into obscurity.  Most employees could care less what you purchase if you even purchase at all but I guarantee if you tied their paycheck to it, the results would be much better overall.  One retailer took this to heart, Dillards, even their clothing associates were commissioned sales people (I assume they still are but do not know for sure).  When you walked into the men’s clothing section at Dillards you are almost attacked by sales people asking if they can be of assistance because they know they have a quota to fill and need to ensure sales are flowing, therefore they are motivated.

It’s my hope that at some point, the retail industry will wake up and realize what it has lost before it’s too late and we can prevent the loss of many more of the retail chains we all grew up with and enjoyed.

The Loss of Childhood Memories

So in the last week, my wife and I celebrated our 6th wedding anniversary and took a trip to Orlando and specifically spent some time at Walt Disney World.  It was a great time to get away and we had the opportunity to actually visit 3 of the 4 parks to catch what we wanted to see and also visit the annual Food and Wine Festival at Epcot.

While we had a great time in all the parks, Epcot still remains my overall favorite and has been since I was a little kid.  I can remember going to Epcot for the first time in the early 80’s right after it had opened and the absolute magic of it all seen through a child’s eyes.  The premise for the park was indeed revolutionary with it essentially being a large World’s Fair and cultural experience.  Back in the day, Future World, which is the area you first enter when you arrive at Epcot was one of my favorite areas.  I always enjoyed The Living Seas, The Land, Journey Into Imagination, Horizons, and even the World of Motion.

Over the years, Disney has updated many of their attractions to try and bring in more of an audience.  Epcot was always a lower volume park because it was more of an educational experience than just a fun theme park, like the Magic Kingdom.  So Disney set out in the 90’s to update Epcot and removed some of my favorite rides to add in thrill rides and other attractions that were the draw in the Magic Kingdom.  So gone are the days of Horizons and World of Motion, having been replaced with Mission Space and Test Track to give kids that ultimate thrill.  Disney then decided to take it a step further and start, what I would call, “Disneyfying” their attractions.  The Living Seas became The Seas with Nemo and Friends.  Other rides such as the boat ride in the Mexico pavilion had to add in Donald Duck and others.  Now even recently, the great ride in Norway was replaced with a Frozen Ever After attraction.  These updates really made me pause and cause some dislike with what Disney was doing but I sucked it up and still have been going to the parks and trying to enjoy what remains of the original launch of Epcot.

On this last trip I began to see even more changes to Epcot.  More specifically with their merchandising.  Many of the countries in Epcot sold products that were specific their regions of the world which I always loved as it gives you the ability to see what’s available around the world from a shopper’s perspective.  However, now it appears much of those products have been moved to small areas in the stores and replaced with large Disney product areas.  For example in Germany, they had a clothing area that provided a wide variety of Soccer and other sports items but now that all has been moved to a clearance rack and they are selling cheesy costumes and t-shirts.

I understand that Disney is in the business to make money and this is a way for them to do it which I can’t fault them for but as time goes on I see more and more of what I used to enjoy about Epcot slowing being strip mined away so they can increase profits.  Because of this I find myself being pushed further away from my childhood and it’s really causing some despair overall.  I can only hope that this practice does not continue much further and the original concept of Epcot is not lost to history.