In 2015, the retailer REI first announced that its stores would be closed on Black Friday. This was a dramatic message at the time, as the day after Thanksgiving is known to be the most popular shopping day of the year, with stores offering competitive sales. From then, the store continued in its path of shutting its doors on Black Friday, making the decision on a year-to-year basis. Now, however, the company has announced that every aspect of the business will be closed on Black Friday every year. This includes all 178 of its retail stores, its call centers, headquarters, and distribution locations – giving a paid vacation day to 16,000 employees.
In recent years, the excitement of Black Friday has been slowly waring off. The younger generation is less willing to wake up at the crack of dawn and wait outside on line for hours to get a good deal. Additionally, many companies have extended their “Black Friday sale” to the days leading up to Thanksgiving, or the days after – leaving less pressure to shop specifically on that Friday.
Following REI, a new trend has been noted with retailers choosing to “Opt Outside.” The movement prioritizes spending the day outdoors, creating experiences, and basically doing anything other than shopping. The CEO of REI, Eric Artz, says: “Opt Outside has always been about prioritizing the experience of our employees, choosing the benefits of time outside over a day of consumption and sales. When we first introduced this movement, it was considered revolutionary for a retail brand, but we felt it was the right thing to do for our members and employees.”
While most retailers are still open for business on Black Friday, the change in thinking is revolutionary and sure to continue shifting trends in consumerism as the years go on.
Shopping this holiday season is doing very well, thank you, with a bit of a boost from our ubiquitous cellular devices, especially our phones. Last Saturday, the weekend after Thanksgiving, saw $3.6 billion in sales for small businesses in one day alone, from cellphones.
According to Adobe Analytics, a tracker of sales online, that figure is higher by a generous 18% over last year. And if things keep going the way they have been, Adobe says we can expect almost 15% growth over last year’s holiday season sales. Small businesses alone earned $68.2 billion in November of this year.
Smartphone sales are way up, says Adobe. Last Saturday smartphone revenue accounted for 41.2% of all e-commerce revenue that day. That represents growth of 22% since 2018. So, what are people buying like hotcakes this year? Some of the top-selling products include “Frozen 2” companion toys to go with the Disney movie recently released. “Madden 20” and “FIFA 20” video games, of course, and more devices like Amazon Fire TV and Apple AirPods.
What can we expect from Cyber Monday? Adobe says we can anticipate a record-breaking $9.4 billion in online sales, an ecstatic increase of 19% since 2018.
Consumers are becoming bolder. Since they have access to prices of the same item in other stores at their fingertips due to smartphones, they are using this is as a bargaining tool. Rather than getting hot under the collar about this, some companies are following the old adage, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ and using this to their advantage. For example, during the holiday season Best Buy, invited their customers to come bargain with them on items, as long as they provided proof of lower prices. Other stores are doing the same – although they might not be advertising this outright.
Still, employers are actually now training their staff in the art of making deals. Bargaining still has to be conducted with style. As VP for Consumer Strategy and Insights at Daymon Worldwide, Virginia Morris notes, it must be “consumer-initiated,” and offers made need to be reasonable and done in a polite manner. And the customer realizes also that the store does not want to lose their custom. So they will try to be accommodating as much as possible, should the haggle be reasonable.
It seems a lot of work is still needed if the US is going to recover its peak on shopping sales from last year. According to figures from the National Retail Federation, even though stores were open for four days over the Black Friday-Thanksgiving time span, sales dropped 2.9 percent from last year’s figure to $57.4bn. It should be noted that this figure is the first decrease in seven years since the Federation has been estimating spending.
So what else are stores trying in the hope of drawing in potential customers? Leigh’s Fashions in Breton Village were handing out glasses of wine or cups of coffee in an attempt to de-stress the consumer shopping experience. According to one of the store’s co-owners, Rebecca Weirda, they did this in an attempt to distinguish their store from the mall experience. They also offer free wrapping services and shopping parties during December.
The week following Black Friday the amount of store shoppers dropped by nearly 22 percent. However, economically, this figure does not account for those who are shopping online. Still, the figure is tough for those retailers who anticipate making 40 percent of their revenue in the last two months of the year.
For the first time in seven years post-Thanksgiving Day weekend, pre-holiday retail sales dropped in what analysts say is a reflection of lack of confidence by consumers in the US economy and wages that are going nowhere.
Black Friday sales were only able to reach $57.4 billion for the weekend, about $1.7 billion short of Black Friday sales for 2012. The average shopper spent $407.02 this year, compared to $423.55 last year.
ShopperTrak, a market research company, says that, despite many stores being open on Thursday, including Macy’s for the first time, actual foot traffic to stores was down by 11 percent while sales fell by 13 percent on Thursday.
Now retailers have set their sights on Cyber Monday, the big online shopping day, hoping that shopping on that day will make up for the anemic shopping on Thursday.
“We expect Cyber Monday to be bigger than ever,” said National Retail Federation’s Matthew Shay.