You would think that 51 Fridays in the red and one in the black isn’t the kind of “high” a retailer could get behind. Yet sacrificing margin for volume and getting myopic about shopper frenzy, most retailers once again placed all their bets on black last week because… hey, isn’t it the busiest shopping day of the year?
Actually, no, that would be the Saturday before Christmas, a day most notably without a clever nom de plume. (Syringe Saturday?)
Retail got greedy these past two years. They turned a single Friday into an entire season with less clarity, offering Black Friday sales as early as October. They flat out never closed their stores and took workers away from their families on Thanksgiving. They came up with a one off – Cyber Monday. And generally sucked the life out of their biggest single day event, diminishing its unique allure and undermining its potential.
Accordingly, since Sunday the retail pundits have spent every waking second shoveling dirt on Black Friday as if it OD’ed before the weekend was over. The NRF reported a 3.6% drop in consumers from Thanksgiving Day through Sunday with spending off by an estimated 11%. Market Watch pointed to retailers “tired of seeing their brands devalued.” And as a true harbinger of doom, following the release of the numbers, (especially the NRF numbers) it was reported that shares of 31 companies in the S&P 500 retailing index fell, with only Family Dollar posting a gain. Black Friday, DOA.
While brands like Walmart, Amazon, Apple, EA and American Eagle were among retailers who indeed had incremental gains last weekend, the problem is that most brands just ended up treading water only to leave today and 50 other Fridays as second thoughts. And in retail, every day is judgment day. Every Friday, when there’s far less noise, far less distractions, far less competition and far less loss leader mentality.
Healthy retailers don’t focus on Black Friday any more than today, Back to School, Labor Day, or their own event: They don’t “wait and see,” and instead they have a sense of retail urgency that in the end is holiday agnostic.
One of our very own retail partners earned a +16% for a weekend event in a wholly commoditized category. Another saw single day +95% traffic lift (not a typo). Another had ROMI blossom to 28:1 this year. One earned +43% comp. Another in the most competitive industry on the planet saw a YTD market share shift of nearly +8% and +12% sales through a series of Friday-based events. All of these brands, in spite of long odds, in spite of being outspent, in many cases in spite of smaller footprints and NOT on Black Friday.
Retailers need to break the habit, plan early, collect data, and utilize speed to market, buying media fast and flexibly. With the right marketing partner by their side, they can string together a lot more than one win in November. And instead of a temporary rush, we’re talking about the sustained higher traffic and comp that a brand can live with 52 Fridays in a row. That’s an addiction nobody wants to kick.