Now that the election is settled, consumers can fully focus on shopping, and the upcoming holiday season. Election fatigue will take a while to fully fade, but holiday shoppers will be relieved to have the break from relentless commercials and robo calls – but is Black Friday the welcome distraction it once was? The Mecca for wheeling and dealing? Not any more, rather, it is an extended retail war zone that begins before Halloween and goes through the New Year. Robo calls are now replaced with relentless Christmas TV commercials, radio ads, online marketing, Santa Clauses in crowded malls and 24 hour Christmas music on Sirius.
Although still an annual ritual for some, Black Friday is quickly losing its position as the best time to secure the favored deal for that flat screen TV. It is becoming diluted because of the avalanche of choices for holiday discounting that has been flooding the airways and customers’ online inboxes since before we saw our first candy corn.
What is helping to fuel the battle? Retailers on the sales warpath feel they need to be open on Thanksgiving day.
Some store managers are uneasy about asking employees to work on the day designated for family time. Yet, the fear of losing vital holiday sales is keeping those same stores open. The battle lines have been drawn and have never been more competitive.
Retailers are clearly picking sides. REI made a bold move last year in choosing to #OptOutside, advising consumers to go outside instead of shopping on Black Friday. REI will close again this year with the same message, having achieved double digit gains in the past holiday season.
The Mall of America recently announced it’s joining the movement to close on Thanksgiving. Other stores known to be closing include Barnes & Noble, Game Stop, Home Depot, Nordstrom and TJ Maxx.
Conversely, Macy’s, who has suffered significant loses this year and is closing stores around the country, will open an hour earlier than last year, at 5 p.m. Other notable stores expected to open on the revered holiday include Best Buy, Kohl’s, Sears, Target and Walmart.
The Black Friday landscape is definitely changing – here are a couple insights. Black Friday isn’t the biggest shopping day of the year anymore. According to RetailNext on Oct. 6, the most profitable shopping day is projected to be Friday, December 23 — two days before Christmas. In addition, according to the Wall Street Journal, consumers are getting bored, because the deals are always the same. No surprise and delight.
It’s a new frontier where retailers need creative, personalized and technically savvy tools to reach today’s consumer with a “see now buy now” mentality.
Here are few examples of retailers getting it right:
Alibaba: China’s largest e-commerce company holds its Global Shopping Festival every year on November 11. The festival unveils innovative marketing promotions and entertainment programs to enable the almost 100,000 participating merchants to build their brands. This year, some tactics included live fashion shows, new product releases, interactive games, and virtual reality shopping.
DSW: In an attempt to craft a more cohesive experience between online and in-store, DSW recently implemented “BOPIS,” buy online, pick up in store. Consumers don’t have to pay for shipping, and they can return the item right then and there if it doesn’t fit.
Nike: The five-story Nike Town store in Manhattan enables customers to hire an in-store personal trainer for individualized shopping or to train for Nike sponsored runs. The fifth floor features a design studio to customize gear on site including sports jerseys and footwear.
Sephora: Attempting to connect with their customers outside of the store, the beauty retailer was one of the first to utilize chatbots, a computer program designed to simulate how a human would communicate. Using the application “Kik,” consumers can ask the Sephora chatbot for product recommendations, makeup tips, and “how to-tutorials” in real time from their phones.
The Apartment: A new kind of clothing business, sells select fashion out of strategically designed apartments in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York. Customers see the products in walk-in closets and imagine themselves as the city-dwelling owner. Consumers are demanding more than fashionable leather jackets; they want help imagining their new identities wearing it.
For this Black Friday, we have a consumer that is extra tired and weary because of an election that was brutal. Retailers, traditional and online, will have to jump through hoops more than ever to nail that holiday purchase.
Perhaps the Detroit Free Press sums it up best:
2016: REI says it’s staying closed, again, on Black Friday. Macy’s announces it will open its stores earlier than ever — at 5 p.m. on Thanksgiving. Walmart says it will start its in-store sale at 6 p.m. Thanksgiving. Stores make it easier than ever to buy doorbusters online. And yet, nobody seems especially excited. Election fatigue? Or shopping fatigue? Or both? Will Black Friday ever be great again?