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Is Black Friday Losing its Pizazz?

Black Friday sales start today -- but at least one expert says they may not be exciting enough anymore for shoppers to head out to brick-and-mortar retailers.

Mahesh Srinivasan is Director of the Institute for Global Business at the University of Akron. He says, compared to 15 or even 10 years ago, Black Friday’s sales are starting earlier in the week, which is downplaying the day’s shopping frenzy.

Srinivasan adds the convenience of online shopping has played a huge role in the decline of traditional retail. And that’s why retailers are getting creative to bring people into their stores. He cites European clothing store Zara -- which has a location in Cleveland – as one example. The chain changes its fashions frequently and has a robust in-store presence.

“That excitement – that when I go back, I’m finding something new – is really what drives the traffic, I think, into those stores. And I think that’s something which other retailers [should] be smart enough to see how that works.”

Srinivasan says brick-and-mortar stores need to concentrate on not just price, but also the experience. He cites a recent visit to Whole Foods as an example of how to attract foot traffic.

“Tasting stations, there were local vendors who were there letting people taste their beer, there was hummus, cheese, wine and I think that excites people. And they want that experience where they can come in [for] something different. And that’s what drives the traffic into their stores.”

Ohio’s retail spending is projected to be nearly one percent higher than last year, but that’s a jump of more than 6 percent over the average spending over the two previous years.

With Kmart leaving the state entirely over the next few weeks, the University of Akron's Amanda Weinstein reflected on how retail is evolving in Northeast Ohio.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.