Last Friday, Black Friday, as it is known, kicked off the holiday shopping season. I spent the better part of my Thanksgiving day trying to remove the useless news sections from my ample delivery of store circulars. Everybody was having ridiculous sales. This got me to thinking about the long-term value of this sales strategy.
As a general rule, I’d want to avoid anything that is named after Black Tuesday – The 1929 Wall Street Crash. Second, what message is this practice sending to consumers? “Want a good deal? Then wait outside my store in the dark and cold (when you’re supposed to be with your family), and I’ll open my doors at 5am. The result? Tragedy. But check out this site which proclaims “Wal-Mart wins Black Friday.” A Wal-Mart worker was trampled and killed, and they won Black Friday?
Retailers have painted themselves into a corner where subjecting customers to extreme conditions and physcial harm is their best strategy. There must be a better way.
What about rewarding those shoppers that have been loyal to you all year long? What if on Black Friday you were only open to customers that were part of your loyalty/affinity program? What if they could pre-order their items online and come pick them up anytime on Friday? Same great deals, but now consumers have to earn them by shopping your store in March and June and October too! The consumers who already shop with you will love this; you may get some new consumers to join your campaign; and those consumers who only shop your store on Black Friday anyway? You can live without them.
Update: John Moore from Brand Autopsy notes an alternative history to the name Black Friday: “More recently, merchants and the media have used it instead to refer to the beginning of the period in which retailers are in the black (i.e., turning a profit).” – Wikipedia