Monday, October 31, 2011

Target, Macy's and Kohl's to open at midnight on Black Friday

Add three more retailers to the ranks of those hit by Black Friday Creep: Target, Macy's and Kohl's will both open at midnight the day after Thanksgiving for the first time this year.

No longer is lining up at 4, 5 or 6 a.m. for Black Friday deals enough. Store opening times have edged earlier over the past few years, with many retailers opting to open their doors the minute Thanksgiving officially ends.

Some retailers have pushed even earlier. Last year, Sears and Kmart were open on Thanksgiving day itself for the first time, and Toys "R" Us opened at 10 p.m. on Thanksgiving.

"The holidays bring hectic schedules and tight budgets, so extending store hours and offering lots of additional ways to save makes Target a great choice,” said Tina Schiel, Target's executive vice president for stores, in a press release. Target will also have longer hours the day before and after Christmas this year, the company said.

Target is also experimenting in Denver with having stores open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thanksgiving day, according to reports.

Macy's CEO Terry Lundgren said in a statement that Macy's decided to open earlier this Black Friday (most stores opened at 4 a.m. last year) "in response to our customers’ eagerness to shop early for great deals."

Kohl's also said this week that it will be open from 12 a.m. Friday, Nov. 25 to midnight the following day, doing business for the full 24 hours following Thanksgiving. This will be the retailer's earliest opening ever on Black Friday.

Retailers are competing for shoppers' dollars this year as unemployment remains high and calling the recovery "weak" sounds generous. Most forecasts have called for moderate growth in consumer spending this holiday season compared to last year, though none have predicted anything spectacular.

Black Friday (which got its name, at least apocryphally, by being the day retailers went from being in the "red" to the "black"), is often, but not always, the single biggest day for consumer spending. Last year, Black Friday sales edged up less than 1 percent, to about $10.7 billion.

How early is too early? And what's the earliest you'd go to a store and line up for a Black Friday deal?

Note: Post updated to reflect Kohl's opening

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Wal-Mart to add more craft beer

The world's largest retailer is going to open up some more space on its shelves for craft beer, according to this short piece in Advertising Age.

Former Walmart CEO and current board member Lee Scott said he recently talked with a top Wal-Mart exec "who clearly is in line with the fact we've got to make more space, we have to have more representation on assortment," according to E.J. Schultz's story in Advertising Age. He made the remarks at a beer distributors' convention in Las Vegas.

"You can't take an area like beer where people are moving to craft and 'under-assort' yourself because the person who is buying craft beer and wants that assortment will drive to Kroger and pay the 15% more," Scott said. Individual store managers will make some decisions about what to stock and where, Schultz writes.

Craft beer has been a growing segment for years, with hundreds of new breweries wresting slices of the action from the market-leading mega-brands like Coors, Miller and Budweiser. Craft beer selections have grown at many grocers. Some have even started contract-brewing their own private labels, such as Harris Teeter's recently introduced Barrel Trolley.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Christmas kicks off at Home Depot

Ari Shainwald is the guy who brings Christmas to Home Depots in the Charlotte area. If Santa was appointing helper elves for home improvement store merchandising, Shainwald would be a strong candidate to lead the team.

On Monday, after the Home Depot on Rivergate Parkway in Steele Creek closed, Shainwald's team got to work, building a new Christmas display area at the front of the store for the wreaths, lights, stockings and inflatables arriving by the pallet.

Their work is part of the unseen retail world, which most people don't encounter unless they've spent time working in a store. And it's extremely detailed, with "planograms" dictating everything from the placement of merchandise on shelves to the height of each display, down to the inch.

Home Depot spokesman Craig Fishel had invited me by the store to see the store's holiday merchandise "reset," as it's known. I went to check out the process myself, and found that as well as being very detailed, the reset is very loud, as rubber mallets slam steel frames together and metal shelves are thrown on top of them.

"Here, we need to follow the schematic to a T," said Shainwald, gesturing to the 8-foot by 8-foot "bay" where the stocking display would soon be. "When we leave this store on Wednesday morning, it's Christmas."

The team of 15 works 10-hour overnight shifts, putting in all of the holiday merchandise Home Depot will have in one two-night session. Workers take their lunch break at 1:30 a.m. They've almost completed the eight stores in the Charlotte market, Shainwald said.

The holiday season has grown in importance for Atlanta-based Home Depot since the chain expanded its Christmas seasonal merchandise five years ago. Last year, Home Depot sold 2 million live trees and 40,000 miles worth of light strings, Fishel said.

Until 3 1/2 years ago, the Merchandise Execution Team - Shainwald's domain - was outsourced to third-party vendors. Home Depot brought the service back in-house to ensure more consistency, Shainwald said.

He starts planning two to three months before actually resetting anything in the store, walking through the space and laying out the designs with the manager. When the merchandise arrives, it's in color-coded pallets with scannable codes - one swiped of a handheld reader tells Shainwald where it goes - and routed to the proper spot.

"A lot of technology goes into this," Shainwald said.

If you've ever visited a shopping mall or department store, you have some sense that American seasons are now determined as much by retailers as by the tilt of the Earth's axis.

At Home Depot, workers haul away summer and fall, literally, as the patio furniture, grass seed and fire pits are carted away and replaced with wreaths, ornaments and strings of LED lights. Walk in on Monday and it's the tail end of fall; walk in two days later and its Christmas.

Friday, October 14, 2011

SAS Shoes opening Charlotte-area store

A Charlotte couple is opening an SAS Comfort Shoe Store next month, at a shopping center next to Carolina Place mall.

One of the store's main selling points is that they manufacture all of their shoes in America, at factories in San Antonio, Texas. Former Wachovia banker Dan Norton and his wife Lisa are behind the new store.

"We remember a time when we could go down to the shoe store and have our feet measured and our shoes fitted properly," Dan Norton said in an email. He said that kind of customer service will be another hallmark of the new store, at 9433 Pineville-Matthews Road.

The company's shoes are all handmade, Norton said, and come in 73 sizes for women and 83 sizes for men, in five widths, from slim to double-wide.

A grand opening is planned for Saturday, Nov. 5. which will feature refreshments and prizes, including an HDTV.

Other notes: Local restaurant news blog Charlotte Restaurant Traffic is reporting that Dolcetto Wine Room, in Piedmont Row at SouthPark, is set to close after four years in business. Check out the link above for more information.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Malls ready for Friday iPhone 4S debut

It's new iPhone time again, and it's Charlotte's first Apple product launch with two local Apple stores, at SouthPark and Northlake malls.

And though some Apple fans might have been disappointed by the product's launch (they were holding out hope for a redesigned iPhone 5), the company has said that the iPhone 4S has already pre-sold more phones than any other model, over 1 million.

Apparently there are enough consumers who want to buy a new iPhone to sustain demand, even in a down economy. And maybe Steve Jobs' death also contributed to some buzz about the new phone.

Here's what the malls have planned:

- At SouthPark, the mall is opening its doors at 7 a.m. to shoppers, as usual. The Apple store will open at 8 a.m.

- Northlake, which just got a new Apple store, is letting customers onto the mall's property at 5 a.m., and letting them into the mall itself at 6 a.m. to get in line. The store then opens at 8 a.m.

Sprint, Verizon and AT&T are also selling the new device.

Bonus note: If you're a zombie fan, the AMC show "The Walking Dead" will be at Northlake on Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to promote its season two premier. The truck on-site will feature zombies and finger cupcakes.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Pandora, Teavana to open at Northlake

Northlake Mall is set to get a new jewelry store and tea shop soon, with the addition of Pandora and Teavana.

The mall doesn't have exact opening dates for the stores yet, but Pandora should be open for the holidays, mall spokeswoman Nan Gray said. Teavana is expected to be open in the next three to six months.

And the two-story, empty Borders bookstore (the chain recently went out of business) has been temporarily filled with a Halloween shop that will become a Christmas store later in the holiday season.

Gray said four other national retailers are set to open at the mall next year, but she can't yet say which.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Limited to open at Northlake Mall

Women's clothing retailer The Limited is opening its fourth Charlotte-area location this month, with a store being prepped at Northlake Mall.

A grand opening is set for the weekend starting Friday, Oct. 21. The events will include a sale, a raffle and a donation to Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, and The Limited CEO Linda Heasley is expected to attend.

The new store is 4,500 square feet, with features such as wood flooring, more dressing rooms, more cash registers and an "e-bar" with access to the company's website to place online orders in-store.

The Limited already has stores open at SouthPark, Carolina Place and Concord Mills, and has 230 stores nationwide. The Columbus, Ohio-based company is owned by Sun Capital Partners, a private equity and leveraged buyout firm.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Charlotte's 30th Bojangles' opens

Bojangles', founded in Charlotte more than 30 years ago, is opening its 30th location in town Friday, October 7.

The restaurant, located at 3301 Wilkinson Boulevard, is the sixth franchise operated by Charlotte couple Raj and Nancy Pathak. It's also North Carolina's 264th Bojangles'.

"We've had our ups and downs, but the business for the last few years has been very strong," said Raj Pathak. He formerly operated several small delis, before opening his first Bojangles' franchise in the 1990s.

Bojangles' is back in aggressive growth mode. The chain was sold to Boston-based private equity firm Advent International earlier this year. It had been owned by Falfurrias Capital, which was founded by former Bank of America chief Hugh McColl, Jr. and chief financial officer Marc Oken.

Pathak said he plans to open another store soon, his seventh, and will be open to further expansion after that. "We always are looking for opportunities," he said.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Dee-Dee Harris opens DQ Orange Julius near SouthPark

The SouthPark area has a new cafeteria and frozen treat shop, owned and operated by prominent Charlottean Dee-Dee Harris.

The DQ Orange Julius shop is located at 6555 Morrison Boulevard, in a building that also houses a Bojangles', Donatos Pizza and a cafeteria. The complex is directly behind SouthPark mall.

Dee-Dee, her husband Cameron Harris and other Harris family members have had a hand in many of Charlotte's biggest real estate projects.

"I am thrilled to have the DQ Orange Julius store in Charlotte open and ready to serve our customers," said Dee-Dee Harris, in a statement. The store will serve frozen goodies, as well as hotdogs and sandwiches.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Bedford Falls toy store to close this month

The wonderful life of Bedford Falls, an independent toy store in Charlotte for 24 years, is coming to an end.

Jean Odom, Bedford Falls' owner, said she's not shuttering the Park Road Shopping Center store because business is bad. Instead, Odom said she wants to focus her time and energy on her other business, Cardinal Lane Book Fairs, a growing company that's been providing textbooks and book fair materials to local schools.

"It has gotten to be where I'm so busy I had to make a choice," said Odom. "My thought was, do you go through Christmas and keep trying to do two full-time jobs?"

The toy store will close Oct. 22, Odom said. While closing a toy store on the eve of the holiday shopping rush seems counter-intuitive, Odom said she believes selling off her inventory will be easier now than after Christmas.

Most of the store's inventory is 30 percent off, Odom said, and the markdowns will increase as the closing date draws nearer.

The store drew its name from the town where "It's a Wonderful Life" is set. "We truly wanted to be like George Bailey," Odom said, referring to the movie's main character, who influenced his community in many positive ways.

There used to be three Bedford Falls stores. A location in the University City area closed after it failed to become profitable, Odom said. A longtime location at Providence and Sharon Amity Roads eventually followed suit. The Park Road store opened 14 years ago.

"It was an incredible place," she said. "I have nothing but happy memories."

Odom said her Cardinal Lane Book Fairs business grew out of the Bedford Falls stores. She said that she began putting on book fairs with local schools about 20 years ago. Odom renamed the business Cardinal Lane Book Fairs about four years ago.

Things really took off when the Joseph Beth bookstore at SouthPark closed last year. The closing store passed Cardinal Fair textbook accounts for two local private schools. Odom found herself getting busier than ever.

When she decided to choose one business to keep open, Odom said she picked the book business because of her passion for reading. She remembers waiting in eager anticipation for the next Nancy Drew book as a girl.

Odom considered selling the business, but decided not to after a retail business broker told her it could find up to a year to find a suitable buyer.

"It made sense to do it now," she said of the closing. "It was just the right time."

Do you have a fond memory of Bedford Falls? Leave it in a comment below, or email

Monday, October 3, 2011

American Roadside Burgers signs for second Charlotte location

Charlotte might be seeing a boomlet of fast-casual burger chains, as American Roadside Burgers has signed a lease for its second location in the city.

Commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis said Monday that the burger company has leased 3,250 square feet of restaurant space in the Park View building at Southpark, on Fairview Road. The restaurant also leased 1,500 square feet of adjacent space to use for corporate offices, said CBRE, who represented the landlord.

The new restaurant, which includes a patio facing Fairview Road, is expected to open in spring 2012.

American Roadside Burgers is based in Smithtown, N.Y., and its two Charlotte locations are a  major expansion. Charlotte's first American Roadside Burgers is in the ground floor of the Ally Bank Building, uptown on Church Street.

Carolina Ale House (which has a formidable burger selection) also recently opened uptown, nearby on South College Street.

And Bad Daddy's Burger Bar has finished changing its name to remove a conflict with another Big Daddy's, and is it to expand, including opening a location at Charlotte/Douglas International.