SALT LAKE CITY — Black Friday is almost here and that means the holiday shopping frenzy begins.
Getting ready for the holiday rush is a lot more than just stocking the shelves, hiring extra help, and opening the doors early Friday morning. Months of planning goes into making sure that the chaos of Black Friday is a controlled chaos.
If you love to shop on Black Friday, some stores are making it possible for you to get started at the exact second it begins. Just a few hours after we've finished our turkey dinner, the doors will open and the crowds will charge.
We visited The Super Target in Centerville and the Best Buy in South Salt Lake. The inventory is already piling up in both stores.
"It's probably the most exciting day of the year to see, because so much time is spent getting ready for it," said Ben Anderson, a team leader at Target. "It' s exciting to see everyone come in and get what they're looking for."
At Target, the planning begins in September. New and seasonal employees attend in-store seminars and classes to learn all the ins and outs of handling large crowds who will demand so much, so quickly. Every day the system is checked and rechecked.
It's been just as hectic at the Best Buy. Semi trucks full of electronic gadgets have been arriving every couple of days, and employees quickly move them to the main floor.
"We start in about July with our holiday meetings," said Best Buy sales manager Chris Herbert. "We have our holiday playbooks that we follow as a leadership team, from the home office all the way down."
We start in about July with our holiday meetings. We have our holiday playbooks that we follow as a leadership team, from the home office all the way down.
–Chris Herbert, Best Buy
We've all seen the video over the years of the stampede coming through the doors. So at both Best Buy and at Target, the No. 1 holiday playbook item is customer safety.
"So we spend a lot of time coming up with a plan to make sure people get into the building safe because there are going to be so many moving parts, and (we're) making sure we're moving around through the day in a safe function," Anderson said.
"We'll have security and our people at the front door to make sure it's as safe for our customers as possible when they come through that door," Herbert said.
Once the customers are inside, the Black Friday playbook makes sure employees are in position to help people find what they're looking for. From the toy aisle, to electronics — if you need help finding that camera, iPad 2, or Nerf toy — there will be someone close by.
"Everyone is put in a specific area; and over in electronics (it's) obviously a pretty heavy sales day that day, on Black Friday, and people are assigned to specific aisles," Anderson said.
Best Buy will have an extra 25 employees on hand; Target will have nearly 175 staffers throughout the day.
If it seems that stores are opening earlier every year, you're right: Target and Best Buy will go at midnight; Walmart is opening at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving Day. Competition and customer demand are forcing it.
"Wednesday night, right after we close, the store almost transforms," Anderson said.
"It's a madhouse," Herbert told us.
With the ease and convenience of online holiday shopping growing each year, is Black Friday still as big as it once was? For Target and Best Buy, and many others, it remains the biggest single sales day of the year.
"This year, 195 million consumers are expected to hit the stores on Black Friday and through the course of that weekend, so it's still a very big deal," said Regina Novikis, a consumer shopping specialist.
One fun fact: Americans are expected to spend about $450 billion in sales over the holiday season this year.