Black Friday…How Big Will it Really Be?

November 23, 2010 § Leave a comment

Unlike the past two years, retailers have stepped up their marketing and promotions activities for their largest weekend of the year that includes Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Many retailers are offering up sneak peeks of upcoming deals using social media, teasing their websites and including detailed promotional information to all store associates who are told to share these details with customers (where in the past this was taboo).

After a couple of rough years, retailers have become more creative in their efforts to attract consumers to their store-fronts (digital and brick & mortar).  According to the eHoliday survey, conducted by BIGresearch, more than half of all retailers will send special emails to customer about Black Friday deals and nearly 4 out of 10 will use their Facebook channel to reach out to consumers.

Additionally, many retailers will utilize their websites home page (31.4%) and Twitter (21.6%) to announce and promote Black Friday deals.  However, retailers will continue to rely very heavily on email – more than 70% of retailers will turn to email as their primary channel to reach out to shoppers.  Email has become a critical channel for retailers to drive both on-line and in-store sales.

Last year, 69% of the top online retailers tracked by the Retail Email Blog sent at least one email to their subscribers on Black Friday, up from 59% in 2008. On Cyber Monday, 71% of retailers sent email, up from 70% in 2008. The email marketing push helped propel online sales to all-time highs, with Black Friday sales up 11% year-over-year and Cyber Monday sales up 5%, according to comScore.

Retailers have the ability to reach out to their shoppers with more relevancy and engage them at more levels in real-time than they could have ever had imagined only a few years ago.  These efforts should translate nicely at the point of sale and yield a nice return on investment.

How Big?

138 million people are expected to hit the malls on Black Friday weekend, according to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, higher than the 134 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, approximately 60 million people say they will definitely hit the stores while another 78 million are waiting to see if the bargains are worth braving the cold and the crowds.

It begs the question; ‘are retailers and marketers being set up for a fall this year with these projections?’  I recently visited a number of retail outlets from Big Box to Boutiques to Department Stores and the inventory was overwhelming – significantly more so than the last two years.  Is this a sign of their optimism – sure it is.  But lets hope for the retailer’s sake they’re right.  Otherwise it could mean retailers will be scrambling to unload excess inventory at bargain prices once again.

It would be a shame to see this pattern repeated especially since retailers were so cautious last year in holding their inventory levels low.  Although this may not have provided consumers the bargains they were looking for it certainly did help retailers manage their costs and avoid a fire sale.

There is no doubt that retailers are optimistic about the upcoming season.  There’s no question, shoppers will be out in droves during these days. But it goes on to point out that two research firms have released somewhat conflicting data about this. There is the National Retail Federation projection of 138 million shoppers. However Consumer Reports said fewer Americans plan to shop on Black Friday weekend this year compared to last year, with 102 million shoppers planning to go to the malls, down 16 million from last year.

What this all means, remains to be seen.  I’ll be trolling the malls and sampling consumers to get a gauge the season; but it won’t be until the final numbers come rolling in can the verdict be decided.


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