Retailers report increase in Black Friday sales

  • Early-hours shopping: Phoenix Stores CEO George Grundmueller hands out baskets as the doors open at 4 am at The Annex toy store (Photo by Mark Tatem)

    Early-hours shopping: Phoenix Stores CEO George Grundmueller hands out baskets as the doors open at 4 am at The Annex toy store (Photo by Mark Tatem)

Sales were up on Black Friday 2012, retailers are reporting after checking their take for the day, which for most began well before dawn — and in the case of one cell phone company at 9pm the previous evening.

However, retailers and shoppers are also reporting that Hamilton roadworks impacted Saturday business, “one of the most important business days in the lead up to Christmas”, according to one business owner, because those roadworks made it difficult for motorists to get into the city.

Motorists reported being forced to make long detours and in some cases giving up in their Hamilton journey and instead turning around and going back home.

Strands owner Will Mayo complained in a letter to Hamilton Mayor Graeme Outerbridge, copied to The Royal Gazette yesterday, that: “I was most upset when I arrived at work on Saturday, to find that Reid and Parliament Streets were closed … I remembered that I had seen something in the paper about the road closures but never thought for a minute that complete access would be impossible! As a business owner in the city it seems there is lack of real planning when it comes to some of the city’s road works etc.

“The case in point was the closure of the junction between Reid and Parliament Streets on Saturday, November 30. This particular Saturday is one of the most important business days in the lead up to Christmas ...”

He continued: “The City fathers need to pay more attention to the very business that support the city as taxpayers.”

Joanne MacPhee, executive director of the Bermuda Chamber of Commerce said: “Usually the City is very good about notifying us of any scheduled road works, but this notice seems to have been overlooked — otherwise we would have checked back with the City to see if the scheduled work could be delayed or postponed until after the holidays.

“Failing that we would have issued an immediate notice to all of our City members informing them (warning them) of the pending closure.

“It was most unfortunate and we will make every effort to work with the City to ensure that any future maintenance does not impede business at this crucial fourth quarter, pre-Christmas juncture!”

Robin Simmons, public and media relations for the Bermuda Police Service, had responded to the traffic gridlock with a media statement: “Due to apparent roadwork along Parliament Street, motorists travelling into the City of Hamilton along Reid Street are advised to divert on to Court Street. In addition, those driving in the general area should expect some delays until this roadwork is completed.”

However, Black Friday was a significant success with retailers including Somers Cooper, managing director of AS Cooper reporting good results from the long shopping day. In the aftermath of Black Friday, Mr Cooper said he was optimistic about sales for the remainder of the holiday season, though cautiously so.

This year, for the second time, the multiple store retailer opened their doors early, beginning at 6am.

“I think ‘cautiously optimistic’ is the term I would use as far as my expectations are concerned. The big question is — does the Bermuda shopping public have more consumer confidence and/or more disposable income set aside for local Christmas spending versus last year, or are shoppers taking advantage of early deals in lieu of spending later in the cycle leading up to Christmas when deeper bargains may or may not be available?”

AS Cooper has participated in Black Friday for three years now, and the company’s strategy has evolved during that time. “Last year was the first wholesale year where everyone did something, and initial indications are that sales improved compared to last year.

Mr Cooper said that social media played a pivotal role in the Black Friday strategy. He said: “ ... using our social media, we announced a different sale each hour, on the hour — a different department, a deep discount, one hour only. We had huge business between 3pm and 4pm with our Brooks Brothers discounts.”

He explained: “We fined tuned (our discounts) a little more and we offered concentrated discounts rather than across the board discounts. The purpose is to try and retain gross margin, because it’s easy to give stuff away, and it’s costly.”

Last year was “really the first successful Bermudian Black Friday”, said the retailer. “In fact, it was the first year we opened early. We did Black Friday two years ago, but we opened at our regular time.” The opening time was designed for those people who had already shopped at the cell phone companies and other retailers who had opened earlier.

“We figured there are people that come into town at that hour for the deals, and there’s a mad rush at the cell phones and at the Phoenix and Brown and Co. Our thought process is well, let them do that, and then by the time 6am comes around, they’ll be ready to come shopping with us. And we did notice on Friday at all of our stores there were greater lines outside than last year.”

He said: “(Sales) are better than they were a year ago. The reason things are better, I think, might have to do with the fact that there’s greater awareness of Black Friday. We have a greater database with the social media approach, so we’re reaching more people with our message.

“I think the economy’s still tough — people are looking for deals, so they’re more inclined to come out when the deals occur.”

Nicole Warren, general manager at Brown & Co, speaking on Black Friday, agreed that the success of this year was a good sign for holiday shopping season.

“Many retailers, restaurateurs and The City of Hamilton seemingly enjoyed a full day of activity and excitement. The sentiments from our industry partners embrace a successful holiday season.

“The Black Friday event has garnered much support from our local purchasing community. It has taken a number of years to reinforce the idea and importance of maintaining the economy through local spending. There is a tradition with many people to spend their dollars overseas either online or through travel, this we will not stop.

“We began (participating in Black Friday) three years ago — we were one of the forerunners. We decided we were going to do this, and we blew it up. The first year was astounding. The next year, many entities became involved and so we saw everyone biting into the pie. So we had to up the ante again this year. We did 360-degree advertising, pushing in every space we could. It was very strategic.”

She credited marketing manager Tina Adderly with the success of that campaign.

“It’s generated massive excitement. Walking around (on Friday), there’s excitement everywhere. It’s great for the City. Look at the city now — it’s bustling, it’s exciting. There’s a feeling of camaraderie, people are coming together.”

Ms Warren, who rose at 2am to help prepare for the Phoenix Group’s 4am opening, said: “Retail in Bermuda can work. But we all need to come together to make it work and keep the dollars here. Keeping the money here helps fund the country’s deficit, right? So we all have a strategic part to play, and we’ve all got to buy into it.”

Ms Warren said there had been cooperation between the Chamber of Commerce and the Corporation of Hamilton for the Black Friday event. “I sat at a CoH meeting on behalf of some of the retailers to make sure that this works — the city is vibrant and exciting and we all have a part to play in it.”

She said Brown & Co discount structure was the same as last year. “We felt that worked for us. The Phoenix Centre upped the ante with children’s toys and the baby shop — they changed their discount structure this year — so we have to be competitive.”

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Published Dec 3, 2013 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 3, 2013 at 11:50 am)

Retailers report increase in Black Friday sales

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