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Stein-Mart & the “Graying” of Black Friday

January 29, 2018

Joseph Horne Co., Pittsburgh, PAWhen we were kids, every few weeks, we would go from Weirton, WV to the neighboring Pittsburgh, PA to go to doctor appointments and to shop at Kaufman’s and Joseph Horne Co., giant downtown department stores.  My mom, my brother, my sister and my grandmother.  We would make a day of it, have lunch at the Fifth Avenue Arcade, the Warner Theater or the Tic Toc Shop and shop at each person’s respective departments.  It was a test in patience.  But, it was an outward act of family solidarity.  We were a unit.  It was the 80s.  It was retail.  I loved the experience.  As my grandmother got older, I would wheel her wheelchair around Robinson Mall.  I love those memories.

As a turnaround consultant and Chapter 11 bankruptcy practitioner, the 2017/2018 “retail apocalypse” has me reeling.  What is happening to the retail experience?  What does the future hold?  I also frequently publish and lecture on retail industry trends.

I heard the term the “graying of Black Friday”.   And gray it certainly was this year.  Shopping on Black Friday has been a family tradition for my sister, my mom, and me for a long time, since I first got out of law school in the 2000s.  This year it was my sister’s idea to go to Stein-Mart’s Find the Golden Hanger contest in Ohio near her home. See infomercial here.  We woke up at 5:30 a.m. and five us of piled into her car, her two teenage children, my mom, my sister and me.  We were determined to win.  We strategized in the car.  We each would take certain sections of the store to search.  Between the 5 of us, we thought for sure we would win.  We agreed to split the proceeds 5 ways.

images steinmart

We jump out of the car.  It’s still dark and cold inside.  It’s 6:45 a.m.  We only see two other cars in the parking lot.  This couldn’t be right.  My sister is competitive and fun and wants to win.  She wants to get in line at the front of the store’s doors.  We were waiting for the throngs of customers that we anticipated would show up.  6:50 a.m.  Maybe one more person.   6:55 a.m.  We are chitchatting in line with the others.  7:00 a.m.  OFF WE WENT!!!!  There were literally 3-4 other people.  THAT’S IT.  Black Friday.  $500.  Golden Hanger.  Where is everybody!!!!???  I am sure Stein-Mart wasn’t too happy with the turnout either.

Did we win?  YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  I bought 3 dress with my $100 winningsteinmart hangers.  It was a moment though for me.  I thought uh-oh.  Retail has serious troubles.   And, I mean serious.  In the store, they practically had to hand us the money!!!

Not to my surprise, this article  hit the Wall Street Journal today regarding Stein-Mart’s need to hire turnaround advisors.    What will the future of retail look like?  Will Black Friday even exist in 2018?  Stay tuned.











One Comment leave one →
  1. January 29, 2018 8:01 pm

    Nice write up and all too true. Retail real estate is already being re purposed for medical, entertainment and even residential uses. Keep and eye out and stay creative!

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