Steve Smith On Nov 19 2012 - 1:00am



I caught a car ad on TV the other night that starts with a November calendar and quickly fills in every date of the month with a black tile with white lettering blaring “BLACK FRIDAY!” And the overwrought announcer yells, “EVERYDAY IS BLACK FRIDAY IN NOVEMBER!”

I forgot the name of the car manufacturer or dealership because I was probably mesmerized by all those possibly profitable November dates becoming “BLACK FRIDAY!” dates.

My advice to the car industry — be careful for what you wish for.

The trend toward Black Fridaybranded sales any time of year for anything at retail has become popular in recent years, with retailers starting their CE holiday promos as early as October.

The term “Black Thanksgiving” was coined by CNN in a report last week, which said that Toys “R” Us and Walmart will be opening at 8 p.m. Thanksgiving evening, even earlier than last year, with Target set to open at 9 p.m.

I’m not going complain again how unfair it is to completely take away from employees a national holiday that is family-oriented and encourages all of us — those of us who are religious in some form and those who aren’t — to be thankful for the blessings we have in this life. I also understand that everyone’s Thanksgiving is not like a Norman Rockwell painting, and that for some retail workers and consumers any excuse to leave the relatives or in-laws early on Thanksgiving is a good one.

But for retailers, having Black Friday sales start before Halloween and in the early evening of Thanksgiving is just like having too much pumpkin pie at the holiday meal: The sweet spike in sales is wonderful, but a couple of days later when you weigh what it has done to your bottom line, most regret it.

One of the arguments for opening stores on Thanksgiving is that and any other retail website is open that day for 24 hours. But heck, any retail website is open 24/7, 365 days a year.

The key for any retailer selling CE on Black Friday is to try and offer deals enticing enough to get consumers into stores, without giving away the profitable SKUs that they want to sell them in the first place, but that’s easier said than done. If you’ve been in this business for any length of time you’ve probably gotten burned selling too many profitable SKUs at too low a price.

It seems as if those that sell mid- to more upscale A/V products are hopeful that this year’s new MAP policies will help maintain profitability and put a lid on typically outrageous promotions, according a TWICE Special Report written by senior editor Alan Wolf.

The other extreme is if retailers are relying on smartphones or tablets, demand will be wonderful but the bottom line may suffer, which means accessories are the key to keeping Black Friday “black.”

CEA’s annual Holiday study (TWICE, Nov. 5) said 26 percent of consumers plan to begin shopping around Thanksgiving, and 25 percent plan to do it in December. And 81 percent think holiday shopping deals will be better than last year, up 2 percent from last year.

Retailers, you have a lot to live up to this season. Try to have a profitable Black Friday and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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