Black Friday. Put a stake in it.

Photo of Cliff Courtney
Date: 2010-11-21 17:12:57 // Categories: Trends,
By: Cliff Courtney
Date: 2010-11-21 17:12:57 // Categories: Trends,

Every Thanksgiving, the sport we turn to is football (unless you consider the exertion needed to manage family drama). But on Black Friday the sport is shopping and Americans come to play. Consider the death the 2008 trampling fatality of Walmart associate in 2008 and it’s a blood sport to boot.

Yes, Black Friday is retail’s crowning achievement, a day created just for shopping. When consumer behavior modification is on full display as we set our alarms to dive into to the belly of the retail beast, the big box retailer, in search of a deep discount on our next HDTV, the entry level laptop we’ve been holding out for, or that shiny new washer/dryer. (Mintel reports 73% of all consumers choose mass merchandisers on Black Friday.)

But there’s a dark side to this shopping super bowl. In a world where retailers are already drowning by discounting and starved for ways to create real value, Black Friday is a race to the lowest price, where the most creative thing retailers seem to think of is extended hours, i.e. open at four in the morning (Kohl’s), sale starts in October (Target), or (and this is true), the following weekend’s “Not Black Friday Sale” from Banana Republic (indeed).

Where are the multi-channel retailers figuring out how to incentivize shoppers to take them off the market early, or giving men a reason to stay home and avoid the mall altogether?

Apple doesn’t need any help any day of the year (on Black Friday ’09 they saw a 39% rise in online traffic – can you say iWow). But imagine if they offered a special edition black iPod on Black Friday… do you have any doubt as to the rush to purchase? But moreover, what Apple-obsessed cultist wouldn’t gladly pay a premium for such a product?

If Target asked you to make a reservation for Black Friday, basically a $25 deposit applied to your purchase that would allow you to arrive at 9:00AM instead of 6:00AM and have the same doorbuster sales waiting, and perhaps even a reserved parking spot, would you jump at it? Sure you would. Target, in this case, guarantees your patronage by adding value to the mix. They also make out like bandits with the breakage, but hey, you can’t make a retail omelet without breaking a few consumer hearts.

What if Ford launched a new black-on black Mustang on Black Friday, or Denny’s introduced its double- Black Angus Platter on Black Friday? Are you seeing what’s going on? Value up, not discount down. Creativity, not a mad rush to blocking and tackling.

Inevitable changes are coming to a Black Friday near you. Like the name itself going away, or the online trends towards free shipping and in some cases with no minimum purchase.

But the big change is the one we’re still waiting for. The one that must happen for retail to not just survive, but persevere. The change in the value of their offerings that excites shoppers with something added, not just taken away. Ideas, promotions, events, add-ons that engage us early and making getting up at 5:00AM on Black Friday a thing of the past.

If you’re not getting enough ideas just call me directly and we’ll brainstorm. All ideas… now 70% off.

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