If You Think You Know When Black Friday is…Think Again

Every day there is news about how eCommerce is changing how the world works. At GrandCanals, we understand that leveraging Internet and mobile technology in commerce has changed the consumer experience and, as a result, customer expectations are vastly different than they were just a few years ago.

For more than a half century, the day after Thanksgiving marked the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US.  Retailers began to open their doors a bit early and offer sale pricing on merchandise to entice shoppers. Over the years, this shopping day became known as “Black Friday,” purportedly named as the day when retailers’ business move from running “in the red” to running “in the black”– in short, profitably.

Initially, opening early meant 8 a.m. instead of 9 a.m.  This moved earlier to 6 a.m., then 5 a.m. and even 4 a.m.  Not to be outdone by competitors, some retailers began to open at midnight or earlier on Thanksgiving night. Not only have the opening hours moved absurdly early, but the “doorbuster” deals have prompted hordes of shoppers to descend on retail locations and even wait in line to enter stores.

As we enter the 2017 holiday season, retailers are changing up their holiday promotions. The crush of customers in the “shopping mosh pit” is beginning to give way to online deals that start earlier, continue later and rival some of the doorbuster prices that are only available before the crack of dawn on Black Friday. Still, some studies indicate a rise in Black Friday shopping, such as an October survey of 1,200 consumers by Nielsen which found that 61% of consumers planned to shop on Black Friday, up from 54% last year. And for super shoppers who can’t wait to get into the shopping fray, Kmart, Sears, Toys R Us, Macy’s, Kohl’s, JC Penny, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Best Buy, and Target are among the retailers who will be open on Thanksgiving Day.

Other surveys such as Market Track’s and PWC’s show that the share of consumers who anticipate shopping in-store on Black Friday are only 39.8% and 35% respectively. However, one thing is clear from all the studies: the holiday shopping period starts much earlier than the day after Thanksgiving. In fact, a National Retail Federation study indicates 40% of internet users planned to begin holiday shopping before November 1.

Retailers are already ramping up Black Friday, Cyber Monday and holiday promotions. According to a Forbes article, 79% of retailers are promoting deals earlier this year than in 2016. With promotions stretching for weeks, the best deals are not necessarily available on Black Friday. In addition, doorbusters are often sold out within minutes of store openings, so showing up at 8 am on Black Friday is likely to leave shoppers with deals that can easily be beaten online. Furthermore, the Wall Street Journal reports that many major retailers actually recycle last year’s deals, giving bargain shoppers little new in the way of deals.

Retail sales over the holiday period are sure to increase this year, but the trends for in-store and online are very different.  Projections for in-store sales look to decrease an estimated 10%, while online sales are expected to increase 14%.  This change is driven in part by trends such as the ones noted by Forbes indicating 75% of consumers between the ages of 13 and 35 intend to extend their holiday shopping period over several weeks, that 40% of online orders are place on mobile devices and 60% of in-store shoppers research products on smartphones.

So how to score the best deals?

  • Start early — check for deals at your favorite retailers’ websites. Use TheBlackFriday.com to quickly locate deals. Major brick and mortar retailers have embraced online selling in a big way in large part to compete with Amazon. Most of these retailers already have “Black Friday” deals running, some of them since November 1.
  • Check online coupons and retailers’ mobile apps. There may be some deals waiting for the savvy shopper.
  • Check product reviews, features and comparisons. Many products, especially appliances, tech and electronics, have many models with varying features. Make sure you know what you are buying.
  • Compare prices. Just because there is a great discount does not mean it is the best deal.
  • Save your short list of items to your wish list. Check back to see if prices have changed.
  • Shop online and stay out of the chaos. A number of retailers with eCommerce websites, such as Best Buy, are offering their Black Friday deals earlier online than in store.

Astute shoppers can certainly score great deals this time of year, but dealing with the bedlam at 5 am is not required.  The eCommerce evolution has changed the game. Yet for all the hoopla over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to RetailNext, the biggest shopping day this season will be December 23, just 2 days before Christmas.


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