Black Friday is too late

Discussion
Photo: Target
Oct 25, 2018
Matthew Stern

For one segment of shoppers, the holiday season starts early and they’ll be spending more than people who wait for Black Friday to start buying their gifts.

Those who start shopping before Thanksgiving for their holiday presents will spend 28 percent or $370 more on average than customers who start their shopping later, according to a study by Deloitte. The report states that 60 percent of its 4,036 respondents fell into the early shopper category. And the earlier the start, the bigger the spend — the 39 percent of customers planning to start shopping before the end of October spend $200+ more on average than those starting to shop in November before Black Friday. 

The findings highlight how shifts in the holiday shopping landscape over the past few years have caused Black Friday to become less of a focal point for customers.

Last year, a PwC survey indicated a significant drop in how many U.S. shoppers intended to shop on Black Friday (only 35 percent in 2017, down from 51 percent in 2016 and 59 percent in 2015).

Holiday spending has also intensified beyond Black Friday and Thanksgiving and into the weeks immediately before Christmas. In addition to the growing popularity of Cyber Monday, there are three December retail holidays that some say have gained traction. Green Monday, the date when retailers begin deep discounting to prepare for the holiday, Free Shipping Day and Panic Saturday on December 23rd, which is the actual biggest shopping day of the year.

But there are more factors at play than a general move away from Black Friday that might impact the 2018 holiday selling season. The closing of Toys “R” Us earlier this year added some big question marks after predictions of which retailers will emerge on top.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do retailers need to do to capture early shopper dollars without sacrificing potential buying later in the Christmas selling season? What do you think will be the biggest factors that weigh on retailer performance over the last two months of 2018?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"In order to make the most of the holiday season, retailers need to maintain a consistent promotional cadence to ensure they are in the market for the early shoppers."
"Despite which survey is quoted this week, Black Friday is still the official kick off to the holiday shopping season and it is important to consumers."
"This holiday period should be better for retailers than last year, baring a collapse of the economy after the midterm elections..."

Join the Discussion!

18 Comments on "Black Friday is too late"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

In order to make the most of the holiday season, retailers need to maintain a consistent promotional cadence to ensure they are in the market for the early shoppers. Heading into the frenetic holiday season, executing store-level basics is always key. Staff to traffic, focus on fast transaction processing during high-traffic, high-volume times and minimize stock-outs. One factor that complicates the holiday season this year will be the extra logistical issues resulting from a potential spike in buy online pick up in-store activity. Many retailers have not yet streamlined this process and the weakness will become apparent under high-volume stress.

Art Suriano
Guest

I’m going out on a limb here because I think this Christmas shopping season will be different from past ones. For starters, the economy is booming, and people are spending more money. Second, reports are showing that retail foot traffic is improving. To support that, one only needs to look at the recent successful two quarters that had many retailers posting strong positive comp store numbers. That said, we’re likely to see a holiday shopping season much stronger than years past, and with that success, many retailers will be reevaluating their selling practices including Black Friday along with Cyber Monday and the rest.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

It would be welcome news indeed if the underlying strong momentum of the general retail market was used by some retailers as an opportunity to back off from the depth and breadth of promotional activity of prior years. It will be interesting to see who actually moves to margin versus market share.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

I would question the PwC numbers. They are based on a single survey and not on proper tracking. Our tracking-based consumer study along with our measurement of footfall and web traffic, showed that Black Friday last year saw growth on the previous year — by 1.9 percent in spending terms.

Now, that’s not to say that Black Friday is less important than it once was, as a single trading day it is. But much of this is because shopping increasingly starts online on Thanksgiving Day and is then spread across the weekend (and sometimes even into the next week). Black Friday is no longer a day, it’s a whole selling period. Last year, that whole Black Friday period (Thursday through Sunday, inclusive) grew by 3.4 percent.

Jeff Sward
BrainTrust

Choices. Participate in the race to the bottom with earlier and deeper discounts. Or don’t. Differentiate. Offer legitimate value — 24/7/365. The discounters will generate the traffic. Compete with authenticity.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

While Black Friday is no longer as critical a shopping event as it was, it’s still very important for retailers to start the holiday season momentum the right way. It’s all about positioning and planning your assortments, pricing, promotional cadence, staffing, and cross-channel shopping experiences to help drive and sustain the holiday business. In today’s shop wherever, in whatever omnichannel shopping universe, Black Friday does lose some of its importance, but still is very much an “event” to help drive traffic to your stores.

Black Friday used to be the “day” when you finished all your shopping, and you fought the crowds to get the best promotions and deals. Now it’s a much more drawn out timeframe and really serves as the official kickoff to the shopping season.

Charles Dimov
Guest

I agree with both Mark and Art. The economy is firing on all cylinders. Foot traffic is growing. And we have more retailers taking on BOPIS — in-store pickups. It means being better prepared than ever before. Bringing them in earlier is a challenge. I know the procrastinator mindset (I am one). What it is going to take is being creative — and sharing gift ideas with customers — before Thanksgiving. To get them in-store (where they will buy more goods), tell them about making sure their special someone doesn’t know you bought it online when the package shows up on the doorstep. The pickup window is a great way to keep the secret, a secret.

Ryan Mathews
BrainTrust
I’d say it all starts by focusing on the season, not one event. The trick — easier said than done — is to create a multi-month calendar of shopping events, not necessarily discounts, each aimed at a fairly specific customer segment while maintaining an overall “mass” price-based campaign. I don’t want to get engaged in a debate over anyone’s numbers here, but the fact is Black Friday isn’t all that it used to be for any number of reasons. This holiday period should be better for retailers than last year, baring a collapse of the economy after the midterm elections, and so Black Friday sales should be solid — within a plus and minus range from last year, but retailing has moved on from the days when a, “maximize one day holiday,” strategy was all you needed to make your year. As to what could influence demand, it’s a fairly long list starting with tariffs and a trade war with China, interest rate hikes, stock market volatility, war — yup, a possibility given the current… Read more »
Michael Decker
BrainTrust
Michael Decker
Vice President, Marketing Strategy
2 years 2 months ago

Yes, clearly Black Friday continues to creep into a much broader selling season for contemporary shoppers. The exploitable gap for retailers is to audibly market an “anti-Black Friday” position — advertising a more socially acceptable take on “great value holiday pricing” to encourage early shoppers to spend to their heart’s content — rather than hold back for bigger bargains during the proverbial crush that is fast disappearing anyway. And adding to that, closing on Thanksgiving (against all odds) is another courageous, long-term brand builder that will appeal to young consumers interested in giving their business to socially responsible (caring) employers.

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Be ready to sell when the customers are ready to buy. The retail landscape has changed, and that includes the traditional busy shopping days. Today we can capture data and have a better idea of when customers will buy, how much they will buy, etc. There shouldn’t be as many surprises as in the past. Black Friday and Cyber Monday will still be big days. So will the days leading up to those dates. Retailers have been pushing for holiday sales to happen earlier and earlier. The trends (good sales this year and a strong economy) indicate a good season.

Dick Seesel
BrainTrust

Black Friday has diminished in importance on the retail calendar (although still a huge shopping period), because retailers have extended their hours and drained any sense of urgency from the event. At the same time, the hype over Cyber Week (aka Cyber Monday) has displaced a lot of the energy around Thanksgiving weekend. Finally, the problem of store traffic during the first half of December hasn’t gotten any easier with the growth of convenient e-commerce options.

Given all of these countervailing forces, it already looks like stores are promoting very aggressively as soon as Halloween is out of the way. Don’t be surprised to see big Veterans’ Day sale events, along with actual Black Friday pricing being promoted and offered to consumers earlier than ever.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Despite which survey is quoted this week, Black Friday is still the official kick off to the holiday shopping season and it is important to consumers. It’s always a favorite topic in our focus groups when discussing holiday shopping because everyone has a Black Friday story and a shopping plan of attack.

Holiday shopping is an equally hated and beloved sport. Retailers need to be smart about the promotions they run during the holidays because shoppers are savvy. Consumers know which stores will run a “ONE BIG DAY!” sale, followed the next week by another “ONE BIG DAY!” sale. There is so much sale marketing swirling around the holidays that many shoppers just tune it out.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

There’s a reason why “Panic Saturday” — the day or days just before the holiday — is the highest grossing sales day for retailers. More importantly, regardless of what you think of “special days,” the customer is not celebrating Black Friday or giving gifts on Green Day. The customer is seeking the smile on their spouse’s face or their kids jumping up and down screaming, “Santa got me [fill in the blank]” without breaking the bank. There’s no easy answer for capturing shopper dollars — but contingency plans, clean stores, efficient and trained staff, in-stock products, competitive prices, and moderate discounting will keep things on pace. The biggest factors for performance will be tied to the in-store experience of the customer and whether the retailer made that journey to the smiles and screams easier.

Rich Kizer
BrainTrust

We (retailers of all kinds) have pushed to open the sales and promotional opportunities earlier and earlier, ahead of Black Friday. Remember the hype of Black Friday when the world waited, and rumors floated about the “special deals”? But now we start the shopping experience earlier, erasing some of the magic of Black Friday. That’s called, in our book, First Dollar Capture, which is necessary for every retailer in a very competitive market.

Will Black Friday still do well? Absolutely. It has become a holiday as-such. An event to visit, shop and just have fun with friends, if you consider going out at 4 a.m. to get that great deal fun. It’s kind of a circus, and it is wonderful for retail. For brick-and-mortar retailers, the big key is special events within their stores — very frequently, and for anyone selling anything, frequent, high-quality communications of great ideas.

Camille P. Schuster, PhD.
BrainTrust

Retailers need to acknowledge consumers’ shopping habits when they shop for presents before Black Friday. However, that does NOT mean advertising Christmas earlier. What it does mean that consumers are looking for gifts, so advertising gift items early is important while keeping an emphasis on Black Friday sales and the last minute sales. Consumers are shopping for Christmas gifts for a long period of time, and they can and are purchasing gifts with Christmas advertising. That does not mean that they are immune to promotions on Black Friday or later. Responding to those promotions may be why they spend more.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest

“…Capture early shopper dollars without sacrificing potential buying later in the Christmas selling season…” Well that would be some trick, wouldn’t it? Obviously people need to spend more for that to happen.

But back to the topic inferred by the title of this piece, I don’t think Black Friday is “too late” as much as it’s just irrelevant. Perhaps it made a lot of sense 50 or 80 or a 100 years ago, when shopping was a communal event, and people had lower incomes (and thus made fewer purchases), but none of that is true anymore … Lord & Taylor put out its final “Christmas Windows” recently, and I think it’s a symbolic end to the concept of “Holiday Shopping Season” as well.

Ananda Chakravarty
BrainTrust

Interestingly, Black Friday has really only been around since the late ’80s.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

Not sure than any new tactics have shown up, yet, to date. I think it’s all about disruption these days. If your team can think up something original for the shoppers, do it!

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"In order to make the most of the holiday season, retailers need to maintain a consistent promotional cadence to ensure they are in the market for the early shoppers."
"Despite which survey is quoted this week, Black Friday is still the official kick off to the holiday shopping season and it is important to consumers."
"This holiday period should be better for retailers than last year, baring a collapse of the economy after the midterm elections..."

Take Our Instant Poll

How likely is it that the number of early holiday shoppers will increase over the next five years?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...