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Bleak Friday

November 30, 2016

The post-Thanksgiving American is one of two things: A Black Friday Fanatic or a Crowd-Hating Scrooge. The Fanatic has always loved getting the whole family involved in going to the local shopping center and strategically planning their attack to get a new TV and that year’s hottest toy. The Scrooge thinks the Fanatic is out of their goddamn minds, and would prefer to properly digest their sweet potato pie and worry about Christmas shopping next week. Stores are doing everything they can to keep the Fanatic coming back for more, and convince the Scrooge that the deals are worth the perceived madness.

 

In 2015, Cyber Monday was by far the most profitable day of the year with almost $3 billion dollars in sales; and on Black Friday in-store purchases were almost parallel to online purchases. Cyber Monday is the perfect shopping experience for the 2016 shopper—be they a Fanatic or a Scrooge. The Fanatic can stay up late refreshing the page waiting for those doorbusting deals to start, and the Scrooge can leisurely shop the next morning over coffee for usually the same merchandise at the same price. Cyber Monday is also the perfect marketing tool on the retailers’ end. If a website is well merchandised and easy to navigate, an online store can move their best sellers quickly while recommending companion pieces to the shoppers cart. This year, a lot of apparel retailers used Facebook and Instagram to promote “Cyber Monday’s Hottest Items!!” and fleeting flash sales.

 

Even though Cyber Monday has remained the #1 sales day for over five years, that hasn’t stopped stores from coming up with new Black Friday in-store sale techniques.  In 2012, a handful of retailers started Black Friday sales on Thursday evening, hoping those few extra hours would help boost sales. Unfortunately, it worked, and other stores began to follow suit.

 

This year, Black Friday advertisements either boasted the long hours they are open on Thanksgiving, or openly promoted that they would be closed (because you know, employees have turkeys to carve too).  Stores that were closed included H&M, DSW, Apple, Nordstrom, and GameStop—all retailers that have had a financially successful 2016. Store opening times seemed to directly correspond with how much sales have dipped over the last two or three years. Kohls, Sears, Walmart and Target all opened at 6pm on Thanksgiving, Best Buy and Toys R Us opened at 5pm, Macys opened at 4 or 5pm depending on location, Old Navy needed to open their doors at 4pm for some reason, and JCPenny was the biggest offender and opened at 3pm.

 

With online deals lasting until Tuesday and in-store sales going on all weekend, being open on Thanksgiving is now seen as a cheap way to get cheap shoppers to buy cheap things. It is a desperate move by failing retailers to get a couple more Fanatics whose kids haven’t taught them to use their new tablet yet through their doors, even though the merchandise has been on markdown all week. Consumerism at large has been steadily increasing over the last couple of years, but some retailers are not able to keep up with the rapidly changing digital world, and Thanksgiving weekend has reflected that. If these failing retailers want to maintain a somewhat positive image for their remaining customers, they need to transform their marketing strategies and promotional techniques for the 2016 consumer.

Tags: trend report

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