Black Friday – Are You In or Out?
Blowouts and blasts and door busters – oh my!
It always amuses me that this somewhat violent triumvirate of terms ushers in the most sparkling and festive of retail sales seasons. Black Friday has always had a bit of an ominous ring to it as well, if you ask me.
The Friday following Thanksgiving has long been a huge sales day for retailers. In recent years, this shopping holiday has continued to grow to the point that many retailers began opening on Thanksgiving night to get a leg up on the Black Friday revenue stream.
Until last year. Sporting goods giant REI went against the tide (and earned some sweet publicity) with their #OptOutside campaign, closing stores and encouraging people not to shop during the holiday. As REI continues their campaign this year, other retailers are responding, and the trend is taking hold. Could it be that the tide may be turning away from the Thanksgiving and Black Friday madness?
The big question this holiday season is not whether shoppers will be out in force in Q4; they will. Says Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO, “Retailers should prepare for a rush of consumers in the weeks following the presidential election as they get more economic and political certainty and are looking to take advantage of promotions and deals that are too good to pass up for their friends, family and even themselves.”
Indeed, the huge question retailers are pondering this season is if they should promote the occasion of Black Friday, and if so, how far should they take it? There are three directions top retailers are moving in:
Direction One: Opt Out of Thanksgiving and Black Friday Shopping
This trend, championed by REI, might not be a revenue generator on a traditionally big shopping day, but it is a great marketing tactic. It allows retailers to still be a part of the Black Friday conversation, while creating goodwill and positioning themselves as a brand that cares about the importance of spending time with family.
REI is taking this concept the furthest by not only closing stores, but essentially closing their ecommerce site as well, pledging not to process any online orders and paying all their employees to take these days off. It may seem extreme, but for REI, the #OptOutside campaign aligns with company values and the mindset of their core customer base.
People who like to camp, hike and ski love the concept, and the campaign generates a large amount of meaningful engagement. In fact, projections show the company is on track for a 6-7% increase in sales even without a Black Friday boost.
The list of retailers following REI’s lead and staying closed on Thanksgiving is getting longer, now including big names like DSW, IKEA, Lowe’s, Nordstrom, PetSmart and Pier 1 Imports. However, these merchants will be open for business in other ways, including via ecommerce. Many so-called door busters will simply take place online.
Direction Two: Make the Whole Month Black
While some retailers are choosing to forego the Thanksgiving-themed rush, others are blowing it out big-time. Why focus on one day of shopping when you can create a whole month of promotions?
This is Amazon’s strategy. The retail giant began offering Black Friday deals on November 1. Although these bargains may not be the big-ticket sales shoppers may be used to from Black Friday, these smaller deals carry on through the entire month of November and all the way up to December 22nd, giving shoppers reasons to return to the site every day.
Amazon announced they’d be hiring 120,000 seasonal workers to handle the demand, up 20% from last year, so they expect this campaign to pay off in a big way.
JC Penney and Kohl’s are a couple of big name retailers taking a cue from Amazon, having extended their holiday promotional calendars even earlier into November. Although both with be opening store locations on Thanksgiving, they will be previewing their Black Friday sales in advance and offering pre-Black Friday deals in the weeks leading up to the holiday. This strategy helps to take some of the pressure off of Thanksgiving and Black Friday, allowing retailers to drive big profits without shunning these shopping holidays all together.
Direction Three: Go Big and Totally Own Thanksgiving and Black Friday
While some retailers are hedging their bets and offering sales throughout November, there’s one that gleefully refuses to let Thanksgiving and Black Friday go. Toys R Us has announced that not only will they open stores at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving, but also they’ll be open for 30 straight hours. The brand says their customers have voted at the door year after year, so the merchant plans to be open and welcoming whenever people are ready to shop.