Thursday, October 29, 2015

Shades of Ebenezer Scrooge! REI To Close Stores on Black Friday.


Here’s an idea. Close up your store on Black Friday. Go on. Close it up. Flip that “OPEN” sign around. No customers allowed in. No, seriously, close up.

“Close Black Friday? The biggest shopping day of the year? Are you mad!?” I hear you cry. No really. Just close up. That's what REI, the outdoor gear and sporting goods retailer is doing this year – they are canceling Black Friday. Not open. Shut up. Gone fishing!

Actually, that last one is pretty much what REI is doing. They’re foregoing the crowds and craziness of the day and are trying to start a new shopping tradition. No door-buster sales or Black Friday promotions. No getting out of bed at 2AM. No huddling for warmth in line in the parking lot. Nope, REI is closing all of their 143 stores the day after Thanksgiving, encouraging consumers to spend some time not shopping in the great outdoors and just enjoying the great outdoors. REI built a dedicated #OptOutside website with resources on local hiking trails to help out those consumer who think a mall qualifies as “outside.”

For a while now Black Friday – which can start as early as Grey Thursday and run all the way through Cyber Monday – has become an increasingly competitive game of can-you-top-this? Earlier store openings, crowded parking lots, door-buster specials, and sales galore. But with all that, (and the fact that Black Friday really isn’t the biggest shopping day. That’s usually the Saturday before Christmas) the numbers of shoppers shopping and the amounts of money spent have been declining each year.

Now, while you might think that a store that sells outdoor gear and mostly-outdoor sporting goods suggesting consumers not shop but play is self-serving, you wouldn’t be too far from right. Sure, it’s certainly differentiating to take an anti-consumerism brand position (well, one day a year), but maybe it’s also just being expedient.

Our recent Brand Keys 2015 Holiday Shopping Survey – interviewing 15,750 consumer from all over the U.S.A. including parts in the great outdoors – discovered that when it came to starting to shop for the holidays, 84% of consumers actually indicated that they were intending to shop before Black Friday. You can find the full survey findings here.

For the breakdown of consumers’ planned shopping excursions looks like this:

Before September:               11%
September:                          10%   
October:                               22%   
November
(Before Black Friday):          41%
December:                           16%

The trend for holiday shopping starting earlier and earlier was something Brand Keys commented upon in 2010, and is conclusively proving itself out. Part of the raison d’être is purely rational; consumers have realized that low-lower-lowest prices are always to be found and usually well before Black Friday. Oh, and as this is the 21st century, you can always sit at home and order online anytime the mood strikes you, although in this instance REI won’t process any orders till Saturday, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!”  And even though we didn’t research it, we suspect that intrepid, hot-wired-to-their-mobile-device consumers can wait one more day!

Other parts of the not-in-any-rush-to-shop Black Friday trend are driven by emotional values: immediate gratification kicks in when you find the perfect gift no matter what time of year it is, and that comes with a BOGO added-value – the gift of reduced stress of having to deal with all other elements attendant to year-end holiday shopping. Ahhh, not dealing with crowds. Diminished exposure to seasonal music! No long lines! Being able to find this year’s ‘must-have’ gift before they sell out on November 14th.

Only 16% of consumers – 9% fewer than 2014, and 19% fewer than 2013 – indicated they were going to wait until Black Friday to start holiday shopping, although some consumers (4%) did indicate that they would make an effort to support local businesses on Small Business Saturday. Supporting your local retailer is a nice thing to do all year round.


But for those of you who feel Black Friday is an absolute mandate, a family tradition, and that cancelling it is a desecration of the holiday season, we have two words for you: Cyber Monday!


Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: brandkeys.com. Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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