Independent Options for Black Friday

Nov 23, 2010
Tom Ryan

By Tom Ryan

Black Friday officially kicks off the holiday selling season. But
unable to compete with doorbuster mania at the big boxes, it’s often a drab
day for independent retailers. Still, some are trying or at least feel compelled
to try to capture some of the shopping frenzy.

For instance, Limelight, a gifts
boutique in Marietta, GA, will open its doors at 8:30 or 9 a.m., rather
than the normal 11 a.m. The first 20 customers in the door get 20 percent off
their purchase. Shoppers throughout the day will also be offered free cookies,
brownies and Starbucks coffee.

"They start their day at the big boxes," owner Susie Mauldin told The
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
regarding her Black Friday customers. "By
the time they get to us, they want to chill."

Many others open early and
offer some discounts in hopes of siphoning off some of the traffic heading
to the malls. Much depends on the proximity the malls.

Malene Davis, co-owner
of the Beehive in Atlanta, told the Journal-Constitution that
she is hoping that relocating her store to a complex closer to a shopping center
with a Target will help drive traffic on Black Friday.

"It’s usually an extraordinarily slow day," she said of past Black
Fridays. "Most people … traditionally go big box. We just can’t compete."

to the News-Leader in Springfield, MO, David Crump, owner
of Global Fayre, a retailer of crafted artisan products in downtown Springfield,
said 2009’s Black Friday was fairly healthy for his store. "But it was
mostly people wanting to escape the mad crowds. Downtown is a good place to
do that."

Still, many other independents view Saturday as their first day
of holiday shopping after the doorbuster frenzy dies down. Some are extending
discounts throughout the weekend.

"Where are you on Black Friday? The malls," Ursula Hallinan, general
manager of the Parent Teacher Stores in Poughkeepsie and Kingston, NY told
the Poughkeepsie
"It is not our holiday at all."

As an alternative,
the Parent Teacher Store is offering a 20 percent-off storewide discount
from 5 to 8 p.m. on Dec. 10.

Speaking to the News-Ledger, Alexa Hoke
Schweke, co-owner of the R&S
Floral Christmas in Springfield, MO, said his temporary store last year had
been inside the Battlefield Mall and opened at 4:30 a.m. The first sale didn’t
occur until 9:30 a.m. With the new location located outside the mall, the store’s
hours on Black Friday will be 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

"I’m not doing anything big for Black Friday because to me that’s for people
looking for deals on computers and TVs," said Ms. Hoke Schweke. "But
we will be here with smiles on."

Discussion Questions: What is the opportunity for independent retailers
on Black Friday? How, if at all, should they try to stand out during the

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7 Comments on "Independent Options for Black Friday"

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Doug Fleener
10 years 5 months ago

I think the best opportunity for independents is to be a Black Friday Oasis. If you look up the word “oasis” in the dictionary you’ll see that it means something serving as a refuge, relief, or pleasant change from what is usual, annoying, difficult, etc.:

A friendly energetic customer-focused staff, warm and welcoming environment, food, drinks, and plenty of seating are some of the best ways to create an oasis amidst a shopping frenzy. A memorable and distinct experience will far outlast a one-time deal.

I also think independents should also be heavily promoting Small Business Saturday and make that day shine.

I know I’ll be out both days, but I am definitely more excited about Small Business Saturday than fighting the craziness of Black Friday.

Joan Treistman
10 years 5 months ago

I think that Black Friday is a good time for smaller retailers to show what makes them special: excellent customer service and thoughtful experiences. So opening earlier and being ready with a cup of coffee and cookies, bottled water and lots of smiles, along with a possible one day only or early morning 20% off could be just the ticket. If the stores advertise and bring in more than the usual number of customers, they’ve achieved an important goal and hopefully made long term friends who will shop and buy in the store during the rest of the year.

David Biernbaum
10 years 5 months ago

Independent businesses are, as a matter of fact, “independent.” There are many creative and energetic approaches they can take to the holiday season, “Black Friday,” included. Independent businesses have fewer restrictions, greater freedom, and greater flexibility to offer the consumer more personalized products and services.

Dick Seesel
10 years 5 months ago

One of the principles of good Customer Relationship Management is to understand what your “best customer” is looking for. The big boxes are probably not filled with loyalists on Friday, but rather with cherry-pickers. Instead of worrying about how to cater to consumers who probably aren’t all that interested in what smaller specialty stores have to offer, focus on your best customer. Make sure you are communicating special offers or other Friday-only benefits in personalized ways — perhaps with an e-mail blast or direct mail piece to your contact list. Find a way to fight the battle on your own turf, with your own best tools.

Richard J. George, Ph.D.
10 years 5 months ago

The key for independents is to not act like the big box chains. Competing on price alone is deadly any day of the year, let alone Black Friday. Independents’ strengths are their ability to customize to their markets and the speed of which they can react to competitive activities. No one should out localize, customize or out service an independent. If so, “shame on them.”

Black Friday can represent a strategic withdrawal from the market or can be a day of guerrilla attack on non-price variables. Remember to play to your strengths and the needs of your customers beyond price.

Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 5 months ago

Do what you have done throughout the year that brings customers to your door. But do it with more of a flair. Stand out. Give them a place to sit if you can. Serve free coffee and cookies as mentioned previously. Be what they want after they have bought only the bigger items somewhere else. Sell them what you are known for and be friendly. That is not happening in the bigger boxes.

Al McClain
Al McClain
10 years 5 months ago

PGA Commons is a mile-long strip comprised of mostly independent stores and restaurants, along the main drag in Palm Beach Gardens, FL. Many of the shops are in relatively small niches, so they have banded together to offer events, and have developed a point system so that you eventually get something free when you shop or dine frequently at any of the businesses.

They also have an active calendar of events year-round (including for Black Friday), and e-mail special offers as a group. Helps them stay independent but leverage their power as a group.

I think the key is they don’t scream ‘FIRE SALE’ on Black Friday or any other day but entice shoppers to come, stay awhile, and shop multiple stores in the complex.


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