I started my career in Retail back when Black Friday was hot, hot, hot. I remember TV’s and cameras selling like doughnuts at a Simpson’s convention, and crazed women grabbing $9 sweaters right out of the box before I could get them on the shelf. It was a thrill, for retailers and for customers. Families shopped together, and it became a tradition in many households to wake up at dawn and head out, armed with credit cards and optimism.
Things have changed. Today, customers are going through the motions, trying to find that sense of adventure, of camaraderie. Instead shoppers are increasingly finding false “deals” stale experiences and cranky associates. Thanksgiving openings have drained enthusiasm by intruding on family time. In some cases, shoppers are even finding danger, with crowds driven to insane behavior by the false promise of a limited deal.
The business impact of this weekend is significant, yet it is also in decline. Fewer shoppers are venturing out to shop, and Millennials in particular are not impressed. Black Friday sales accounted for 6% of holiday revenue a decade ago, this year it is likely to be 4.3%. While this year may be a boom year with pent up demand due to election distraction, the trend toward online is certainly increasing, and eroding profits and loyalty. If retailers respond by continuing to lower prices to attract customers, the revenue will eventually be offset by the profit loss. While the bargain shopper needs to be satisfied, there is a need for innovation to attract a broader base.
So, what’s a retailer to do?
What if we took a new approach, and created an event that resonated with values?
What if we made it fun? Could we make it social?
After all, if it’s really just about the bargain, why go out at all when you can get it online easier and faster? What could stores do?
Some retailers have already moved toward connection and experiences: Sur La Table is holding cooking classes; The Vitamin Shoppe brings customers in with a kombucha bar.
Given the huge financial impact of this weekend, retailers won’t be changing their strategy anytime soon. But the indicators are clear; a change is coming, and the smart move is to begin to experiment now to find a real connection that will give customers are reason to enjoy the weekend, be a part of their community, and delight in the holiday spirit. Good luck to all you hard-working retailers; wishing you a terrific 2016!