Friday, November 28, 2014
Black Friday, an annual endurance test for consumers and a key performance indicator for retailers, has been getting a digital makeover. In the always-on, always-connected world, the actual day of the event is no longer as important as Black Friday’s brand identity and spirit. In 2014, many deep discounts already took place across America weeks ahead of Thanksgiving and the Friday directly following it.
In a world where brick-and-mortar locations and store hours are increasingly beside-the-point, consumers are frequenting retailers that “pop-up” in heavily trafficked areas, selling their wares in temporary buildings for days and weeks and then disappearing just as suddenly.
Buyers of all ages are opting in to flash sales, retail’s version of snap chat that offers dramatic discounts that disappear on cue, sometimes in a matter of hours.
Amazon.com customers were able to purchase before Black Friday with assured delivery on or before Black Friday, eliminating the need to wait until the actual day to purchase the discounted items.
In addition, Cyber Monday may be stealing share from Black Friday, but it’s also not immune to the omni-channel effect that appears to render real-time and on-site retail irrelevant.
In “Why you shouldn’t wait for Cyber Monday,” Huffington Post journalist Alexis Kleinman encouraged consumers “who don’t want to face the crowded stores on Thanksgiving or Black Friday” to begin shopping ahead of the masses because the most meaningful sales begin well ahead of official shopping days.
Kleinman cited four reasons for shopping before Cyber Monday: the best deals start before Cyber Monday, Cyber Monday deals are overrated, popular items may sell out during the big sales, and consumers who buy early will be more likely to receive their purchases in time for holiday gift giving.
American Express Co. began Shop Small Saturday in 2010 in an effort to drive traffic to small merchants in the United States. The exponential growth of this manufactured holiday resembles a grass roots movement more than a business initiative that’s being led by a major card brand. Level 4 merchants are finding novel ways to engage in the Shop Small community and encourage consumers to support their local businesses.
AmEx continues to drive engagement at www.shopsmall.org, citing government approval of the new holiday tradition and encouraging merchants to “take charge of the day,” with free personalized ads that raise brand awareness for their businesses in the same way that big-box retailers promote holiday sale events.
The changing consumer dynamic of shopping in virtual and brick-and-mortar worlds will continue to disrupt traditions, even those like Black Friday that were considered disruptive themselves, back in the day. But even consumers draw the line when commerce encroaches upon Thanksgiving, threatening the sanctity and family time of the time-honored, traditional holiday.
In “A social boycott: Networking to roll back Thanksgiving store hours,” published in the New York Post on Nov. 23, 2014, columnist Nicole Gelinas described a movement to take back the Thanksgiving holiday. “The movement against ‘Black Thursday’ is exploding,” Gelinas wrote. “Brian Rich, 32, of Idaho, has run ‘Boycott Black Thursday’ on Facebook for three years. He’d racked up 103,914 ‘likes’ by last Friday – up from 7,000 last year.”
Gelinas wrote that if the social media advocates attract enough followers they might convince people to celebrate Thanksgiving instead of going out to shop, which might then convince retailers to go dark during the holiday. BJ’s, Costco, Dillard’s, Marshalls, and Nordstrom are among the retailers that heeded the call and remained closed all day Thursday.
JCPenney, Kmart, Macy’s and Sears joined the list of stores that keep their lights on during the Thanksgiving holiday. If these stats reflect the preferences of a majority of retailers and consumers, the Boycott Black Thursday faithful may have a long road ahead of them.
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