It’s their own fault. As forecasts predict declining sales on Black Friday this week, the retailers only have themselves to blame. What was once considered a special event – a social one, even – has been diluted by sales before and after the day, while online sales continue to rise.
Based on a survey by retail consultancy WSL Strategic Retail, only 29% of women (the primary audience for Black Friday) intend to shop that day.
Now that doesn’t mean retailers are going in the tank that day. Black Friday will still exist, but it may never be the special day that it once was. The impact of online shopping is one reason, with 33% of women saying they will shop online (including 71% of Millennial women), which is simply the way of the world now.
The problem for major retailers is that a vast majority of those online shoppers will head over to Amazon, the single biggest threat to the brick and mortar stores that have long been the bedrock of holiday shopping.
But it was the retailers’ own greed that has done them in. In the rush to claim as much space in the holiday shopping market, retailers began Black Friday earlier and earlier. (That’s why our own senior brand strategist, Corbin Rusch, applauded REI for its no Black Friday promotion.)
In fact, one of the reasons why women in the WSL survey said they wouldn’t shop on Black Friday is because sales aren’t as good as they used to be (73%) and, more importantly, because sales are just as good before and after Thanksgiving (78%).
As a whole, retailers may make out OK this holiday season, although I suspect Amazon is going to eat up a large chunk of that market share.
How to fix Black Friday.
So what’s a retailer to do? For one, retailers need to stop trying to “out open” each other by pushing back the clock further and further until the sales start on Halloween.
For another, they need to face the biggest problem in retail: The lack of brand identity for the individual chains and brick and mortar shopping itself.
Black Friday has long focused solely on sales, getting the best price for a gift. That trigger has lost its impact now that sales start when the kids are trick and treating and last until Christmas Eve.
Instead, to re-build the category of Black Friday, retailers need to highlight the fun of the event itself. The social interaction (even though sometimes they lead to fights) should be improved as a whole so that shoppers feel like they are having fun.
Right now, Black Friday feels worthless because you fight crowds for prices shoppers can get elsewhere and at another time. But the day used to be something a little bit exciting. Market the day, not the low prices.