Black Friday Losing Its Unique Status As US Sales Season Spreads

Black Friday Losing Its Unique Status As US Sales Season Spreads
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Black Friday Losing Its Unique Status As US Sales Season Spreads

By Edward Helmore

Whither Black Friday? America's annual post-turkey, pre-dawn retail bender is coming under pressure as bricks-and-mortar retailers suffer the encroachment of online competition and a sprawling pre-holiday sale season threatens the foundations of the country's pre-eminent consumer bacchanal.

Sales shopping is far from dead. According to the National Retail Federation, 59% of consumers — an estimated 137.4 million — plan to shop over the holiday weekend. The numbers, which cover Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday and the weekend, include both in-store and online shopping and are up fractionally from 58.7% or 135.8 million people last year.

But Black Friday's reign as retail's biggest day is coming to an end. While Thanksgiving and Black Friday are expected to rake in more digital dollars, Cyber Monday — officially 28 November — is forecast to be the largest sales day of the year, at $3.36bn, according to Adobe Digital Insights.

And we are really talking about a sales shopping season now, not single big days. Cyber Monday, started as a marketing ploy to encourage online shopping, now really starts on Black Friday for many online retailers, and retail giant Walmart is kicking off a "Cyber Week" at one second past midnight on Thanksgiving Day itself.

Confused? You should be, says consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow. Black Friday is no longer the defined or defining retail event it once was.

Black Friday "bargains" are planned promotional price adjustments mixed in with a couple of loss-leaders, Yarrow says, but the real bargains start with Cyber Monday and last through to the December holidays. And whereas Black Friday deals used to be restricted to a retailer's stores, those same deals are often now found simultaneously online.

Taking a lead from Amazon, this year Walmart plans to up its sales offering from 8m items to more than 23m. And they'll be available 18 hours before Walmart's door-buster deals go on sale in stores at 6pm. "Black Friday lost its identity and oomph. It's overhyped and online shopping has stolen its thunder," Yarrow says.

Part of the trend, says Yarrow, is that retailers and consumers are bargain-obsessed and started their sales soon after Halloween. At the same time, "the deals are pretty much the same as last year and really, how many big-screen TVs do we need?"

The National Retail Federation president, Matthew Shay, says retailers answered consumers' demand for promotions by offering Black Friday deals as soon as the day after Halloween. According to the NRF, half of all consumers have already started gift-shopping.

"This time of year is about finding the right gifts while staying on budget," says Shay.

While the shopping season is shifting, the number of consumers planning to shop remains staggering. The NRF survey found that 21% of weekend shoppers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day, nearly the same as last year's 22%. But Black Friday will remain the busiest day of the holiday weekend with 74% planning to shop that day.

The trend for shopping earlier in the season is being driven by millennials, with 86% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 78% of 25- to 34-year-olds planning to shop on Black Friday.

For this group, online shopping on Thanksgiving is a holiday tradition and shopping remains a social experience, whether in-store or online with the aid of social media.

"It's the only experiential moment retailers offer them during the holiday season that they can share with friends and family and then share it with the rest of the world on social media," says Ana Serafin Smith at the National Retail Federation.

Counterintuitively, the key for retailers to get millennials into stores has been to boost their online presence, says Smith. Then the excitement of the sales retail experience — large crowds, new products and the opportunity to interact with other consumers who are interested in the same items — kicks in.

"The biggest hurdle retailers had to go through was getting online. As they started to improve the quantity of products online to what they had in the store allowed them to connect because millennials love to do a lot of their research online and then walk into the store to purchase it. It reaffirms their decision that to spend, say $1,000 on a new Samsung TV, is the best decision for them," says Smith.

Retailers have further learned to mix up the deals they offer online or in the stores to allow them to get traffic through both. "That way they can appeal to all the different types of modern consumers we have now," says Smith. Some only want to buy in store, others online, so retailers have learnt to incentivize both.

"That's the retailers' way of showing that they're listening to their customers and paying attention to what they like and don't like." 

One thing in retailers' favor, retail analysts believe, is the end of the election season. According to HookLogic, e-commerce dropped 5% year-on-year the day before the election, 16% the day of the election itself, and 23% the day after.

But in the period since, confidence has rebounded and with it shopping. By the Thursday after the election, e-commerce spending was up 24%.

"It was a long, tough election," says Yarrow. "No matter if your candidate won or lost most seem to want a respite — even an escape. Add to that a relatively stable sense of personal economic security and I think it'll be a solid holiday shopping season."
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  • 来源: 2016-12-02