Is Black Friday History?

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Sep 23, 2013
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Black Friday is no longer a day or a week but a state of mind. As retailers extend the shopping season around major consumer shopping staples like the holidays and back-to-school, we’re likely to see the eventual extinction of cornerstone promotional events like Black Friday.

At the heart of this trend is the post-recession shopper: Consumers are using multiple marketing channels to find the best deals and prices throughout the season, and they are searching for those deals earlier and earlier. According to Experian Marketing Services’ Hitwise data, we are already seeing increases of 11 percent for Black Friday searches in 2013 versus 2012 for this latest week of data.

In an effort to win these deal-hungry, "always on" consumers earlier in the season, retailers are becoming more promotional earlier this season. According to a recent survey of holiday marketers by Experian Marketing Services, nearly half stated that they would launch a holiday campaign before Halloween. Further, the majority of marketers began planning holiday campaigns in the summer months with June earning the title as the top holiday planning month.

In terms of promotional tactics and Black Friday deals, free shipping ranked as the top promotional tactic that marketers will integrate into their customers’ holiday shopping experience this year. Thirty-nine percent of marketers surveyed will use free shipping, followed by deal of the day offers (28 percent) and eCoupons (21 percent). Very few marketers plan to use layaway (three percent).

Although Halloween may be weeks away, brace yourself to hear holiday music during your next shopping trip. And with Halloween and holiday displays running side-by-side this season, expect to see more trick-or-treaters wearing Santa Claus costumes.

Is Black Friday still a valuable shopping tradition for retailers and their consumers? Do you see Black Friday becoming less and less relevant in the years ahead? What should retailers do about relentless deal seekers?

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25 Comments on "Is Black Friday History?"


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Bob Phibbs
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

This year, Chanukah lands the day before Thanksgiving which will alter all Black Friday ideas. Additionally there are six fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas. I’m not sure if it will be the deals that matter as much as correct timing of messaging.

Frank Riso
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Black Friday will continue to be an important day in the holiday shopping season as long as retailers offer sales for the day. It is a tradition that will continue. I expect it to change a bit but still remain a news “event” as well as a retailing event.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Black Friday IS history, but it’ll be a long time before it disappears from the lexicon. It’s useful as a symbolic start of the buying season, regardless of the ways people shop now. Shoppers love the freedom to shop their way, but look out for real consumer backlash if Jingle Bells starts playing in October.

David Livingston
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

I see Black Friday becoming less relevant; however it is still a big part of our American culture. While it’s not a legal holiday, it is in fact a bigger holiday than several of our legal holidays. As for dealing with the relentless deal seekers, retailing is a rough game, and often a cruel one. If you can’t run with the big dogs, stay on the porch. Learn to compete. Otherwise you will be sitting alone, crying, in a vacant box.

Dick Seesel
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Relentless deal seekers are a fact of life, although they are just a part of the larger population of value-oriented consumers. (That is, most of us.) if anything, mobile technology has made it easier for deal seekers to cross-shop at a variety of stores.

So Black Friday still serves a purpose, even if the definition of “Friday” has gotten pretty loose. It drives a huge amount of sales, and it represents a “stake in the ground” for the large number of stores seeking market share from each other.

Joan Treistman
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Seriously? We shoppers have been trained by retailers to look for deals. And with the help of the internet we can do this efficiently 24/7. Black Friday can influence searches for great deals. But if those deals don’t show up, neither will I, nor my fellow shoppers.

It’s not about Black Friday becoming less relevant. It’s about the availability of great deals every day and how shoppers can access them.

Nikki Baird
Guest
Nikki Baird
5 years 8 months ago

I don’t think that Black Friday is dead, but it has definitely jumped the shark. Its time has come and gone, and what will eventually remain will be a shadow of its former self. We just don’t need it anymore. The store isn’t where we consumers start our shopping trips any longer, and Black Friday is purely a store-based phenomenon.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Black Friday once signified when retailers profits turned to black from red. Then retailers made it a sales day that ripped into those profits. Today, it is all psychological, to echo Joan. As more and more shoppers realize they can get whatever prices they want any day of the year, they will increasingly forgo the anxiety of Black Friday. Whether the retailers (and the media) themselves will forgo is another question.

Ed Dunn
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Black Friday is the original “flash mob” phenomenon and the original meetup.com between retailers and customers.

I believe it is up to retailers to make this day special for their customers. Retailers who continue to focus on loss leads are racing to the bottom, while retailers who learn to showcase and make Black Friday a special day for their customers with over the top experience will win in the long term.

Bill Davis
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Unless the holiday season changes its dates and Q4 becomes just another quarter, Black Friday will retain its relevance. The friday after Thanksgiving is still the kick-off to a frenzied ~4 week shopping period. The masses have been trained for this and they have no plans to let it go.

Paula Rosenblum
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Not only is Black Friday history, but Back to School is really history. Schools open on such weirdly scattered schedules that they seem to extend from August through mid-September.

The seasonal trend has been dying for almost 30 years for a variety of reasons too numerous to get into here. Suffice to say the old “4 season” model died in the 80’s.

I think retailers should stop worrying about relentless deal seekers, actually. They’re not profitable customers anyway. What do you want to do? Make money or sell a lot of stuff at a loss?

Zel Bianco
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Perception is reality. Black Friday will remain relevant as long as people place relevance in it. I think too much promotion too early actually diminishes the idea of Black Friday. If you get an offer for 30% off before Black Friday, the Black Friday offer of 40% off isn’t exactly enticing.

Regarding the deal seekers, retailers need to focus on servicing the entire consumer base. The deal seekers will be there anyway, so there’s nothing really to “do” about them.

Chris Petersen, PhD.
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

The origination of the “Black” in Black Friday came from the general trend that it was at that point in the year where most bricks and mortar retailers turned their balance sheet from “red” (loss), to “black” ink symbolic of profitability. Before the explosion of ecommerce, that was a fairly accurate depiction for most retailers using holiday promotions to stimulate consumer purchases in high volume holiday season.

With today’s omni-channel, shop-anytime, everywhere consumers, it is abundantly clear that “Black Friday” is no longer a day or even a week. In fact, if traditional stores simply try to price match the internet, there will never be black on their balance sheet.

Culture patterns and trends still influence consumers. (Who really plans to buy Holiday decorations with Halloween costumes?) But today’s consumer purchase behavior will be much more driven by omni-channel shopping than one day Black Friday sales in-store. For that matter “Cyber Monday” will no longer the Monday after Black Friday … Cyber Monday has become a seasonal event that has already begun in October.

Dan Raftery
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

As consumers spread their shopping forays across the internet with increasingly robust accessibility, focal points like Black Friday may become more important for retailers. It remains one of the few guaranteed-to-be-exciting days in a store. I don’t think it matters when the deals start, as long as something significant happens in the aisles the day after Thanksgiving.

Gordon Arnold
Guest
5 years 8 months ago
Tradition and commercial hype are the intoxicants that maintain Black Friday’s status. The fact that a great deal more hype is needed to deliver the number participants for a return on this investment is most telling. The need for store traffic is a 52 week per year challenge. A glaring lack of marketing prowess has been exposed and underscored by the expanding numbers of Black Friday events throughout the year. The question I have: is this a result of no money for new and innovative advertising as a result of weaker margins or is there just no appreciation for the value of advertising and marketing? I have read reams of reports that justify the need for increased appreciation of sales, marketing and advertising in the retail industry. And while I agree that as an industry retail puts little emphasis on these corporate attributes, I have seen another reason for concern. The reason I am concerned is well disguised by the increases in company dollars here and dollars there. There seems to be a lot more… Read more »
Todd Sherman
Guest
Todd Sherman
5 years 8 months ago

As retailers have become more aggressive on deals and are using more channels to reach out to consumers earlier and earlier, the day itself is no longer as relevant — although it will remain a milestone and motivator for a lot of shoppers. Black Friday has become a metonymy for the deals related to holiday purchases.

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Our industry has created these shopper “monsters” and as long as we continue to make anything out of Black Friday, shoppers will be looking for deals on that day/weekend. Shoppers are not necessarily waiting to shop on that day any longer, especially since so many retailers have already started advertising for the holiday season.

Bottom line, retailers must keep up with the trends, regardless how self-destructive they may be to the industry.

Tony Orlando
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

They should change it to Black Eye Friday, as Retailers are getting hit hard on the bottom line vs. making a profit. Profits are almost a dirty word these days, as margins continue to shrink, with everybody fighting for business.

Price is still king in retail, and this will not change for 95% of Americans anytime soon. We need to be vigilant in providing value, or risk being left out of the choices they make to buy their goods.

Yes, there are exceptions to the shopping mania that Black Friday brings, but hot deals are going to win the day. Either get in with smoking hot stuff, or lay low for the weekend. My father once told me, “Anybody can give away something, but a merchandiser makes money.” Still true today, just a whole lot harder to be heard and seen through the fog of the Shopping Wars.

Carlos Arambula
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

The definition of Black Friday has changed from a sale after Thanksgiving to a pre-Thanksgiving sales event — or is it pre-Halloween now?

The former Black Friday sale will remain but under a new name and under the same consumer expectations. It will never lose relevance, just change names.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

It’s not surprising that retailers are getting an early start with holiday promotions given the phenomenon of Thanksgivukkah along with the findings from the National Retail Federation that “41.4% of shoppers last year said they planned to start their holiday shopping in October or earlier.”

I think Black Friday is still a valuable shopping tradition for retailers, but it needs innovation, and the conversation that is missing here is one on the opportunities of innovative virtual to physical engagement to create a memorable holiday shopping experience.

While some shoppers will be always be looking for door-buster deals or a free gift with purchase, a more social savvy shopper is going to be looking to have a deeper engagement with their favorite brands during the holiday shopping season through the social sites they frequent on a daily or weekly basis year round.

Black Friday is the perfect time to capitalize on this deeper engagement by creating special opportunities of curation, promotions and rewards for sharing content, then delivering in-store with a unique holiday fulfillment experience.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

This is part of a broader trend. As Paula noted, back-to-school is no longer clearly defined, but I would add to the list of things we no longer embrace as discrete events the fall preview of “next year’s” cars, presidential elections, the start of football season — all have morphed into more-or-less perpetual happenings.

Kenneth Leung
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

I think Black Friday is still a valuable tradition in terms of signaling the start of the holiday shopping season. Sure, you can buy Christmas items now (I saw Costco’s Snowman and light display in store last week), but Black Friday can be repositioned to be the day to think about gift shopping and make it a festive environment, not just the midnight riot scene with the almost give-away price items.

Personally, I haven’t done Black Friday in years, but some of my friends still do for the atmosphere and also as an excuse to get out of the house after the stress..um.. joys of family Thanksgiving dinner 🙂

James Tenser
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

As long as a crowd still gathers outside a retail store somewhere on the morning after Thanksgiving, Black Friday remains a useful hook for TV news reporters and an opportunity for pundits like us to get 15 seconds of air time.

It became a cliche the moment shopping bloggers started calling it by name. Now the goal seems to be to “win” Black Friday by snagging a few deep deals that were calculated to induce competitive frenzy.

Unless the goal is frenzy over profits, retailers should consider ignoring the relentless deal seekers. Focus instead on known high-value shoppers and shopper segments. Reward those good customers by insulating them from the frenzy, and help them obtain the desirable items of the season.

Alexander Rink
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

I would have to agree with the overall consensus here that Black Friday isn’t history, at least not yet, and as long as retailers keep adapting to consumer preferences and habits, it will remain a valuable shopping day…or at least an iconic one.

William Passodelis
Guest
5 years 8 months ago

Black Friday will always be an important retail day, but this will continue to be less important as time progresses due to the retailers “watering down” its importance with attempts to gain an advantage on competitors. This includes opening ON Thanksgiving Day by more and more retailers (to me personally, this is a very disappointing development, although I completely understand it from a business viewpoint). Also internet sales increases, and increased use of “online” and other alternative ways of purchasing will likely affect the importance of “Black Friday” as well.

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