When I consult with and advise business owners on their marketing strategy and subsequent campaigns, I make one thing very clear: don't have sales. Sales speak mainly to transactional buyers - those who are the least loyal consumers because their only loyalty is to the lowest price, not you. What my clients get is a healthy dose of from me is to focus on their value proposition and a competitive price, not the lowest one. My clients who have taken this to heart have been very pleased with the results they've seen over time.
Of course, there is one exception to my "no sale rule" and that is if there is one time of year that a retailer is known for doing a sale - "Crazy Day" or a "Clearance Sale" when on that one time of year can consumers get that deal and none other, then a sale is fine. But a sale should never become a habit because sale after sale after sale only trains consumers to shop you only when you have a sale and to wait you out till your next sale when there might be an even better deal. The other exception to my no sale rule is Black Friday. Black Friday is that one day a year when people are expecting to get the deals and when they know they have to act to miss out. Sadly, the Black Friday phenomenon as we knew it no longer exists.
Granted, what I'm about to put in front of you as to why Black Friday will never be the same is not the only reason for the lack of Black Friday punch this year. Certainly the economy and greater shopping online have and will have an impact on people's level of spending on Black Friday well into the future. However, as it relates to consumer attitude and behavior, what I'm about to tell you will explain why Black Friday is no longer the special event it was, why it will never have the power again it once had, and how business owners screwed it up. That's right. I'm blaming the decline of Black Friday on business, not consumers.The warning signs were plain to see in March 2014.
One Saturday afternoon I was watching television when I saw an ad for Home Depot that announced you could get "Black Friday savings in March". The hair on the back of my neck stood up. First, Black Friday is a post-Thanksgiving event (note the word "event" because we'll come back to that). Second, if Home Depot is trying to use Black Friday as a hook before their Spring season begins, you know they're worried about revenues and people hanging on to their money. It's desperate and harmful to the Black Friday brand.
How is that? Think of the Super Bowl. It's one day when the country stops to watch football, watch commercials, and have parties. It's one day that when it's over does not come around till the next year. It's SPECIAL. Get it? Special (I'm looking right at you, Home Depot). If the NFL and their television network partners said throughout the playoffs, "Enjoy Super Bowl feelings and fun for the next six weeks" then the Super Bowl would cease to be a national phenomenon because you wouldn't have the one opportunity to be part of it. There would be no urgent, compelling reason to have parties and watch football because a weekly, the event itself and all that goes with it would be "just another weekend of football". Want to know how powerful the Super Bowl is? The television networks asked the NFL to move the game from the last Sunday of January to the first Sunday in February so it would fall into the Nielsen ratings period. Television networks get it and our retailers - largely - don't.
Most people who tune in for the Super Bowl, who go to parties to watch commercials don't do it because of who is playing or even because it's football - it's because of the experience they have on that one day. The Super Bowl is one big national party...and there are some who advocate making the Monday after the Super Bowl a national holiday. Retailers need to understand Black Friday was not just about the amazing deals, it is about the experience that came with it and it's now an experience that is no longer special because it's no longer just one day.
In 2014 we saw a November where you could get Black Friday deals BEFORE Black Friday as retailers panicked to get the holiday shopping dollars instead of their competitors. Why brave the crowds and the madness when I could get a better deal on the same items two weeks before when all is calm? Why wouldn't I do that? And, thus, Black Friday has become synonymous with just another sale that is no longer special because it isn't just one day anymore. Furthermore, Cyber Monday has become Cyber Week for some businesses (I'll give you a hint: it's initials are H-D and I'm not talking motorcycles) in an attempt to cash in on what should be a one-time event. Instead Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been turned into just another sale. Nothing special.
And our retailers will not be better off for it.