Black Friday Redux

April 28, 2016

Black Friday’s unofficial origins start around the same time as the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s inspection in 1924 – when Santa showed up, it signified that Christmas and shopping season was now upon us. Until recently, Black Friday was meant for “early birds” willing to get up at the crack of dawn on Friday morning to go stand in line to score an unbelievable deal on a television or get the must-have toy of the season. As the years go on, Black Friday has become Black Thursday with families heading out as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes hit the sink instead of waiting for the traditional 2 a.m. shopping alarm to go off. Other retailers, including Target, choose to offer deals weeks ahead of time, effectively turning November into a month-long celebration of savings.

As the years go on, Black Friday has become Black Thursday … and, soon, Black November. With stores blurring the lines of when the holiday shopping season officially starts, how can retailers still make Black Friday stand out as THE day to go out and shop?

The Earliest of Birds

In fact, 2 a.m. shopping is unheard of … because it’s just nearly not early enough anymore. This year, certain retailers have reached a new level of “early:” 5 p.m. Thanksgiving evening. The turkey isn’t even out of the oven and people are rushing out to shop. This is actually a very calculated move that can reap sales and benefits – open BEFORE Thanksgiving dinner. While the chef of the family stays behind to baste the bird, the rest of the family goes out, does an hour or two of shopping to score the deals they’d normally have to wait to see later, then get home in time for the first cut of white meat to hit Uncle Bill’s plate.

5 p.m. can be risky, however, for a dinner-based holiday. The new norm is an 8 – 9 p.m. opening – a nice in-between time for consumers who want to enjoy their holiday meal but aren’t willing to wake up at an unreasonable hour.

No More One-Trick Ponies

Retailers know they need to pull out the big guns from now on as Cyber Monday grows in popularity and it becomes harder to convince consumers to commit to in-person shopping. For example, Barnes & Noble announced on Monday the 24th, just days before Black Friday, something big they’ve been working on for over seven months: only available in-store on Black Friday, there will be a collection of limited-edition, signed books for sale at 40% off from over 100 authors including big names like Amy Poehler, George W. Bush, Hilary Clinton and Mario Batali. With only 500,000 available between the company’s 650 stores, these are going to definitely bring in book-loving consumers and those shopping for the perfect gift for fans of these authors and celebrities. Being a retail chain in a struggling industry, pulling out a deal as big as this on one of the most profitable days of the year is a smart move to bring Barnes & Noble top of mind for shoppers.

Our own outlet clients make Black Friday an event worth fighting off the effects of tryptophan to go out Thanksgiving evening to start shopping. They know it’s not enough anymore to just offer coupons. By incorporating giveaways, entertainment and extra deals on top of already reduced outlet prices, these centers make a very enticing case as one-stop holiday shopping destinations that offer all of the brands on everyone’s wish lists all in one convenient spot at even better prices than normal (plus extra incentives for the shopper) to get all their shopping done in one caffeine-fueled night. Through PR efforts including radio and television coverage leading up to and during the event, we set up our centers as THE shopping destination of the holiday season.

Whether it truly starts on Thursday evening or early Friday morning, Black Friday shopping is still prevalent in the U.S. By making the night an event or offering something extraordinary, retailers can keep consumers excited for Black Friday every year.