Black Friday has long shed its American Thanksgiving roots, spreading around the world, spanning more of the calendar, and pulling in more brands and retailers. Black Friday has morphed into Black November and Cyber Monday has expanded into Cyber Week.
As Marshall Cohen of the NPD Group put it:
“Black Friday used to be the greatest day in retail all year. Now it’s becoming background noise … It’s not actually Black Friday anymore, or even Black Friday weekend or Black Friday week. It some cases it started in October. Lowe’s and Home Depot even had Spring Black Friday sales…
“Christmas creep has turned into deal creep. You have to be one of the unluckiest people in America if you are paying full price for anything these days.”
The NPD Group predicted US holiday sales growth between 2.7% and 3.2%, driven mostly by more products and services on sale.
Yet competing only on price can lead to a race to the bottom. Constant price promotions risk training consumers to shop only on deal.
Deloitte analyst Jason Gordon once put it his way:
“If one of your big rivals goes on sale, you don’t have any choice. You’ve got to get your share of the action, otherwise it’ll go to your competitor and be lost. It’s a game of chicken and there’s only going to be one winner – the consumer.”
The alternative to this losing game of chicken is finding a way to promote differently, not just with deeper discounts.
Some brands are starting to follow REI’s lead, which has famously run an anti-Black Friday #OptOutside promotion since 2014. This year, the sustainable shoe brand Allbirds emptied their London flagship of all products on Black Friday, turning their store into a creative workshop space for the day to make a statement against “discount-driven impulse buying and single-use purchases.”
Other brands, like at Nordstrom’s new flagship in New York, are prioritizing long-term relationships with high-value customers through extra experiences and services, such as VIP shopping hours.
This is a good time for brands and retailers to think about what they stand for beyond the lowest price. In the long run, no brand can out-Amazon Amazon.
Here are a few related cartoons I’ve drawn over the years: