By Mike Farrar
In the US, Black Friday (the Friday after Thanksgiving) has been the busiest shopping day of the year for about a decade. Before 2004, holiday shopping actually peaked the Saturday before Christmas.
I live in Chicago, and I’ll be sad if Black Friday ever dies, because I like going to the circus. I don’t mean the circus of people lining up at 4 am for doorbuster deals. I mean the real circus, with professional clowns.
See, the circus is always in Chicago over Thanksgiving, and Black Friday is great if you want to go to the circus. You can always get good seats because everybody else is standing in pre-dawn lines to get into Wal-Mart.
Unfortunately for me, it looks as if Black Friday’s reign is coming to an end.
Every November Day is Black Friday
It all started with a host of stores and malls, including Target, Wal-Mart, Kmart and Macy’s, opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. And it’s not stopping there. Retailers are doing it for three reasons:
- Retailers want to make the most of the buying season. Nearly 20 percent of retail revenue is generated between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This year, Thanksgiving is the latest it has been in November since 2002. This is shortening the shopping season by six days, which could mean $1.5 billion in lost revenue.
- Competition, competition, competition. Many retailers feel that they are in a race against e-commerce. Between football and filling up on turkey, Americans are also shopping online on Thanksgiving Day. In fact, 28 percent of people who shopped last year during the four-day weekend did so on Thanksgiving Day.
- Did I mention competition? Catching shoppers’ dollars before the Thanksgiving weekend is one more way to outrun the e-competition. This year, Wal-Mart kicked off Black Friday savings on Friday, November 22. Yep. Black Friday started a week earlier this year. And why not? If a deal is good enough to offer on November 30th, why is it not good enough to offer on November 29th? Or November 28th, 27th, 13th, 8th, or 1st? You can expect other retailers to start falling in line. The only way to win a race to the bottom is to get there first.
Who’s the Showroom?
Competition in retail is nothing new, and despite the hype, the war between online and bricks-and-mortar is overblown. Fears about “showrooming,” where customers purportedly walk into a bricks-and-mortar retailer to get the look and feel of a product and then buy it for the lowest price online, are overblown. Forrester reported that in 2012, $231 billion of retail sales were online and $2.8 trillion were offline. However, a whopping $1.2 trillion of offline sales were influenced by online research. If you ask me, the internet is the showroom, not the other way around.
In fact, many of the retailers listed above have a vibrant online presence. Deal News found that 70 percent of Black Friday deals are available online, which makes perfect sense. If bricks-and-mortar retailers demanded that customers reach them through only one channel, they would put themselves at a disadvantage.
This is why many retailers are taking an omnichannel approach this holiday shopping season. They want to reach customers wherever they are — in a store, online, or on their mobile phone — and use technology to turn costly bricks-and-mortar stores into an advantage.
Retailers are reaching across channels and executing in ways that are seamless to the consumer to make a trip to the store a value-added part of the shopping experience. This includes social media integration, improved websites, in-store pickup and same day delivery, and mobile services that help customers navigate the stores, comparison shop, and access offers however, wherever, and whenever they choose.
So, where will I be on Black Friday, Black Thursday, Black November, Cyber Monday or Cyber Week?
I know where I’ll be Black Friday. I’m taking my kids to the circus. And anyway, I always end up doing my shopping in December.