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Black Friday shopping
Imagine a nation united in digesting the Thanksgiving feast on the couch, rather than in the car on the way to the mall. Imagine that stores opened later than usual the next day—with coffee and muffins in place of door-busters. Imagine everybody agreeing to just sleep in. What if we completely reinvented Black Friday?
There are no more headlines to be made by opening early, by staying open for 24 hours straight, by selling coffee machines for 60 percent off. If we learned anything from REI’s bold rejection of Black Friday last year—closing stores on what is considered the Super Bowl of shopping days and urging employees and customers alike to get outside instead—it’s that risks will be rewarded. REI’s holiday earnings didn’t suffer for that one lost day. In fact, the outdoors store most certainly gained customers who appreciated a retailer taking a stand against the madness that has become holiday shopping. Just as we were about to ship this column to the printer, Mall of America announced it will be closed on Thanksgiving Day this year—to “give the holiday back” to employees and shoppers. Stores and restaurants have the option to open, but MOA is urging them to resist.
Small Business Saturday has gotten a fair amount of buzz in recent years as boutiques try to differentiate themselves from the big-box stores. Plaid Friday is another marketing attempt to create an alternative to midnight shopping. But neither has knocked Black Friday off the calendar.
I asked some of my go-to retail experts how they would change Black Friday. First, consumers have to loosen their grip on the coupons. In turn, retailers need to engage shoppers—beyond bargains. It starts with the color.
Green Friday. Black Friday exists because the day after Thanksgiving was historically the time when retailers became profitable for the year—moving from red to black. Aaron Keller, founder of Capsule brand agency in Minneapolis, says we’re ready to move to another place on the color wheel. “Green is associated with nature, generosity, and all things sustainable,” he says. (Also, Christmas!) “Let’s make it about giving back during this time of year.”
Colorblind Friday. “Less about getting out of the red. Less about getting intothe black, less about saving more green,” says Kevin Quinn, Styled Retail’s chief strategist. “Instead, let’s focus our retail lenses on treating guests more like kings and queens!”
Class, not coupons. The evolution of Black Friday comes from what consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow calls “competitive panic.” “Both retailers and consumers got bargain-crazy and the result is an increasingly untrustworthy shopping holiday in the minds of consumers,” she says. “The reset would be more focus on holidays, entertainment, events, and people—less focus on raw bargains.”
Put the “thanks” back into Thanksgiving weekend shopping. “Make it about celebrating the holiday with customers, not about getting them to buy more stuff,” says Pam Danziger of Unity Marketing. She suggests retailers devote the day to thanking customers for their support and loyalty throughout the year with food and drink, and gifts for at least the first 100 customers. “Make the gift something real and meaningful, not just another gift card.”