Now that the numbers are trickling in concerning Black Friday, a verdict can be rendered: Black Friday was a bust.
Sales were down 11% on Black Friday, which doesn’t come as that big of a surprise considering retailers really opened up the sales season earlier in the week. That strategy basically extended the but also made it less urgent (and special) for shoppers who would normally wait for stores to open at midnight. More than 30% of Black Friday shopping, according to Shopkick, was done in the week ahead.
What does this all mean for retailers? Well, they have killed Black Friday, something I wouldn’t mind seeing die anyway. But while forecasts say holiday shopping overall should still be strong (mainly because gas prices are so low), there are dangers retailers will be facing in the coming years.
For one thing, the reason retailers loved Black Friday so much was because those shoppers usually didn’t just buy what they had planned ahead of time. There is a greater number of impulse buys on Black Friday. Now, as consumers have become savvier (shopping online, avoiding the crowds for earlier shopping or later shopping), those impulse buys are left on the shelves.
In addition, to recoup lost sales during Black Friday, I can see retailers discounting even more in the coming weeks. There will be a blood bath over trying to get the other 50% of shoppers (by some estimates) who still haven’t bought a thing.
That will lead to shoppers becoming even savvier. They will understand that the Black Friday is a ruse and, if they wait, they can find better deals in December. That means lower margins for retailers.
I don’t expect the final numbers of this season to be too worrisome, but the shortsightedness of retailers will have repercussions in future years. The holiday season will always be the high point for retailers, but I suspect they will find sales being diluted over time and the market leaders will become the default choices.
Retail is a cutthroat business and there are few industries that follow market leaders into battle like it does. But it has crossed the Rubicon and will never be able to go back.