Openings and closings in the retail world seem to be the new normal these days. Here’s an update of who’s coming and who’s going.
Likely on the way out: Fresh & Easy.
The British parent of the mini grocer announced last week it just wasn’t making enough money to make shareholders happy. The retailer is considering pulling out of the U.S. and selling its stores. Signs of the retailer’s struggle were evident in the Valley, with several stores built but never opened.
What this means for the eight Fresh & Easy stores in the central San Joaquin Valley is still up in the air. You can read more about why it’s failing here.
Coming soon: Walmart Neighborhood Market.
Walmart has been opening its own version of a small grocery for a while now and one is coming to Fresno. The 40,000-square-foot store is under construction at the southwest corner of Willow and Herndon avenues, and another is slated for Demaree Street and Goshen Avenue in Visalia.
Photo by Bee photographer Eric Zamora
As the Bee’s retail reporter, I cover Black Friday, the traditional kickoff to the holiday shopping season, every year. At about 12:30 a.m. Friday, I found myself at Fashion Fair mall, stuck in a mob of people outside Victoria’s Secret.
The crowd had completely filled up the mall corridor and come to a standstill. Hundreds of people were trying to get inside the store, which was letting only a few people in at a time. It was hot, people were breathing on me and a feeling of claustrophobia was starting to climb up my throat. I heard screaming. The forearm of the woman behind me was pressing into my back even though I’d already loudly told her to stop pushing me. I reached behind me and squeezed her arm because it seemed like the only thing to do at the time that might get her to stop.
I’d find out later that people were getting pushed and smashed up against the glass of Victoria’s Secret. All this for what? A $25 hoodie? Don’t these people know you can get a hoodie at Target for $12 any day of the year? Suddenly I came to a crystal clear conclusion: I hate this. I want to be as far away from here as possible.
But as miserable as that experience was, it’s hard to demonize Black Friday as a whole. There’s another side to the night that’s just plain fun. Earlier in the evening, people were friendly and quick to laugh as I hopped from store to store. Whenever I asked someone who spent hours waiting to get sinside a store how they passed the time, they all said the same thing: Making new friends. People who were once strangers were swapping stories, jokes and shopping strategies. The woman who ate her Thanksgiving dinner on the sidewalk outside Target befriended a cute little 10-year-old boy and the two of them laughed their way through the hours. Mothers and daughters in town for the holiday spent hours catching up.
Are you ready, Black Friday shoppers? Or should I say “Black Thursday?”
The post-Thanksgiving shopping madness starts earlier than ever this year as Toys “R” Us, Walmart and Sears break out the doorbuster deals at 8 p.m. and Target opens at 9 p.m. Thursday.
You can read all about what to expect in the Fresno area here. Note that stores like Walmart, Target and Sears are appealing to night owls and early birds alike with waves of different doorbuster deals throughout the night.
The earlier-than-ever opening times are inspiring a backlash from Target and Walmart workers, who say they’re ruining Thanksgiving.
But if you’re one of the many caffeinated Americans who make Black Friday shopping a family tradition, the opening times listed below can help you plan your strategy. Most retailers Black Friday ads will be Thursday’s Fresno Bee or are already online.
Also, many Starbucks locations near major shopping areas will be open all night Thursday, including Starbucks at River Park and the new one at Shaw and West avenues.
I’m still trying to wrap my brain around business reporter Bethany Clough’s report in today’s Bee that women’s clothing retailer Forever 21 has its eye on a bunch of dying Gottschalks stores, including Fashion Fair and River Park. Isn’t that like, say, a store the size of Radio Shack expanding into Circuit City? Are we really going to get stuck with THREE floors of bright-and-boppy mall-girl fashions targeted at “Twilight” fans? (Actually, Forever 21 says it’ll add men’s clothes as well.)
OK, I’ll admit I’ve never been in Forever 21 except to take a shortcut through to the parking lot, but what I saw certainly didn’t seem to fit the general-interest department-store bill to me. Three floors, two big Fresno stores? Something tells me that all those loyal little old lady-Gottschalks costumers who have been shopping there since 1684 or whenever the venerable chain was founded aren’t going to find much to buy in its replacement.
Update 1 p.m.: Here’s Bethany’s news blog post on the subject.
Update 4 p.m.: Wow, stuff happens fast in the retail world. Bethany reports online that Forever 21 already has dropped its River Park plans. (Did you get to take a lunch break today, Bethany? What do you think will break by the end of the day — that Sak’s Fifth Avenue is moving to Fresno?)