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Black (And For Me Blue) Friday

November 27, 2009

Peer pressure is a strong and insidious thing. It can make us do things our parents told us were wrong, our religion classifies as sins, and what our brain tells us to run from. For the past week or so, I have been suffering from the most extreme form of peer pressure - - - ads for Black Friday. Unless your cave had a blackout lately, you couldn’t avoid seeing Black Friday ads on television, the Internet, bulk mailings, newspapers, and radio. All and all, I am sure if haven’t started shopping by four Black Friday morning, I am probably going to hell.


But Black Friday is more insidious than the pressure it applies to get me to shop. It also puts a lot of pressure on me to be a successful retailer. If there are long lines outside of Wal-Mart, Kmart, Best Buy, and shopping centers, then I am expected to have the same long lines at my store. If I don’t, there must be something wrong with my store.


Unfortunately, in our industry, most of us retail things people aren’t thinking about buyhing when it is cold. And, unless you are a retailer in the Southern Hemisphere, it is cold here the day after Thanksgiving. I always hope I will see lots of shoppers, but it rarely happens. In fact, business is usually a little slower Black Friday and the following Saturday because so many people are crowded in the malls.


Of course, part of the problem may be that I don’t participate in Black Friday advertising. I think this is partly due to advice from my dad who says, “Sears can’t sell air conditioners in the winter, Son.” This may be old-fashioned advice; but, I think there is a lot of truth to it. The other reason I don’t do a lot of advertising for Black Friday is I would bust my advertising budget tyring to been seen in the sea of advertising from department stores, big boxes, and warehouse clubs.


There are some of us who do contra-seasonal products. For those of you into those categories, I am sure Black Friday is more fulfilling for you than it is for me. I do contra-seasonal; hearth merchandise. But, you know what, gas logs and hearth tool sets just aren’t as sexy as a new iPod or GPS unit. The only way business will be good in that category is if it is very cold on Black Friday. Then, people will come in to buy gas logs regardless of my pricing.


Recently, however, I received an email from someone I consider an Industry Heavyweight who hoped I was getting ready for Black Friday. This person has the opportunity to speak to outdoor specialty retailers throughout the country; so, I wonder if he knows something I don’t. Have I hidden my head in the sand because of my father’s advice? Could I create a demand for warm weather products on a cold day in late fall? I don’t know and would really like other retailers to share their Black Friday experience. If Black Friday is a big day for you, I’d like to know what you did to get to that point.


And, if I hear from others that Black Friday is a huge day for them, then I am really,


Yours in confused retailing, Bruce