Remember Black Friday back in the day? Throngs of customers pressed against the glass doors at 7 am, anxiously awaiting the clerk to turn the key and grant entrance into bargain heaven. What followed was a mass stampede of consumers trying to outrace each other to grab the best deal. And then the clerk started turning that key earlier and earlier – until stores started opening at midnight on Friday to make the most of eager consumers ready to buy.
The past few years have brought a dramatic shift to the Black Friday tradition – namely that some retailers are now opening their doors on Thanksgiving eve to take full advantage of the masses wanting to shop. Call it a “pseudo” Black Friday before Friday. For example, Walmart is still opening on Thanksgiving at 6 p.m., but it’s pulling back on the “doorbuster” and Black Friday deals and saving them for the real Friday fun.
Black Friday 2015
And this year has brought yet ANOTHER Black Friday change – a group of major retailers who are saying “no” to opening on Thanksgiving at all. PYMNTS.com writes:
“Retail’s march into Thanksgiving’s territory has stopped advancing and actually started beating a hasty retreat when it comes to shopping in store. Marshalls, T.J. Maxx, Crate & Barrel, Pier 1 Imports, Barnes & Noble, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Costco and many others have decided to go cold turkey (we couldn’t resist) on Thanksgiving Day retail, suggesting instead that a better idea is to have everyone just stay home with their families rather than shopping in their stores.”
But then, Macy’s, Sears, Target and Toys-R-Us all plan to have their doors open by 6:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day.
Wow. Talk about confusion.
Even though Black Friday was born in the 70’s, some 40 years ago, it seems retailers are still trying to figure out which Black Friday strategy is best. While some retailers view Thanksgiving and even Black Friday as an important time to spend with family, others are betting that people still want to shop on Thanksgiving or at 6 am on Friday.
Profitability on Thanksgiving and Black Friday
Bill Martin, founder and SVP of analytics company ShopperTrak, states that retailers’ holiday hours are ultimately determined by the promise of profit.
“It’s all driven by whether (they’re) making money or not,” he says, which is likely another motivating factor in retailers choosing not to open stores earlier on Thanksgiving this year. “I think that it has not shown that it’s advantageous to open up at 4 or 5 (on Thanksgiving). And they’re getting the same number of sales as when they opened at midnight.”
To open or not to open – the jury is still out. But what’s not in doubt is that retail’s little brother, online shopping, is riding the holiday shopping wave like a champion pro surfer. PYMNTS.com writes:
“This Thanksgiving Day, retailers are projected to clock $1.6 billion in sales online, and on Black Friday, they are hoping to see a number that will climb to $2.7 billion — up from $2.4 billion in 2014. By Cyber Monday, online sales will top $3.2 billion — at least that’s the opinion of retail industry pundits. Total online sales for that five-day holiday period will top $7.6 billion.”
Will Online Make Black Friday Obsolete?
While there are die-hard consumers that consider Black Friday shopping tradition, many see a midnight trek to the mall as pure insanity when they can digitally shop from their couch and get the same deals. Whether you are online or in the store, big retailers like Target say that providing a seamless online and offline shopping experience for their customers is even bigger than Black Friday. Target CEO Brian Cornell states:
“As we think about omnichannel, it’s about fulfilling this on-demand shopping experience. We recognize that most of our guests today shop in stores, but we also know, we’re going to need to have flexible formats and give guests a chance to shop online. We offer the convenience of ordering online and coming to one of our 1,800 conveniently located stores to pick it up when they want to — using our stores as flexible fulfillment centers. That’s how we see ourselves competing in this omnichannel, on-demand environment.”
How, when, and where consumers holiday shop is clearly a changing landscape. 20 years from now, will we be telling our kids about “back in the day” Black Fridays? One thing we know is certain not to change is the need for payment security in every channel, from P2PE for retail and mobile to tokenization and transparent redirect for Ecommerce.
Stay tuned for a post-holiday wrap up (couldn’t resist) on this year’s holiday spending.