Has Black Friday ‘Jumped The Shark’?

Is opening on Thanksgiving more valuable than increased online sales?
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When did Black Friday cease being the official Opening Day of holiday discounts and shopping?

Was it in 2013 when the trend to open on Thanksgiving began? Or was it last year when controversy swirled around that new trend, and Black Friday sales spread out all through the month some now call Black November?

This may well be the year Black Friday jumped the shark, with retail marketing plans and messaging going all over the place. Some retailers will be open for Thanksgiving; others will be closed for the holiday because they said employees deserve to spend Thanksgiving with their families, while still others began “Black Friday” sales at the beginning of the month, or revealed their ads and started offering those deals now.

You’d think that with manic efforts by many brick-and-mortar retailers to beef up their online sales that Thanksgiving would be the day to emphasize that part of their business. But, I guess, opening on Thanksgiving means those few hours are more valuable than increased online traffic and sales.

Another wrinkle in all of this is that there is a consumer backlash to retailers opening anytime on Thanksgiving as this recent report by Alan Wolf shows. In fact, if you’ve been on Facebook enough in the past few weeks, you’ve seen posts by consumers saying they want retail employees to be home with their families.

P.C. Richard & Son made that point in the mid-1990s when its former New York-based competitor, Nobody Beats The Wiz, decided to open on Thanksgiving. The chain designed an ad that it traditionally runs on Thanksgiving week saying it is closed for the holiday to give its employees time with their families, but will be back open very early on Black Friday. This is its plan again this year.

When I met a couple of weeks ago with Mike Fasulo, president/COO of Sony Electronics, I asked him how he thinks Black Friday has changed over the years.

“One, I think, it is a lot of noise. A lot of Black Friday shopping for families — fathers and sons, mothers and daughters — it is a pre-planned event that for some crazy reason we don’t want to sleep, we want to wake up at 4 in the morning and wait on a line to get something we don’t even need. I think it is a phenomenon that has become a tradition, and something that I don’t think will go away.”

He explained that Sony Black Friday now has “minimal impact” because “we are staying true to our focus on premium value. You’ll see on Black Friday we will continue to provide premium value.”

But, Fasulo volunteered, for “market share leaders or the price leaders, I think they have some challenges. They have [to match last year’s sales numbers], and how do you do that unless you give something away?”

He echoed a feeling about CE sales on the day after Thanksgiving, with all the discounts and all the volume and little margin, that yours truly has long felt: “[Black Friday] should be called ‘Red Friday.’ But the hard reality of it all, which is disturbing, is a lot of consumers are going to go home with products that they won’t get full enjoyment of for the future, whether it is future-proofing or a great experience due to a spur of the moment purchase.”

All that being said, Black Friday should again claim its place as the biggest shopping day of the year, according to ShopperTrak and others.

For everything you need to know about Black Friday, Thanksgiving and Black November retail strategies and plans, check the hub at TWICE, which is being updated as more developments happen.

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