Why Stores Are Letting Black Friday Bite The Dust

April Carlisle

Looks like Black Friday’s image problem is getting worse. USA Today has proclaimed it irrelevant. The National Retail Federation is predicting smaller crowds. And a student newspaper in Connecticut called it -- ouch! -- the “Internet Explorer of made-up shopping days.”

Too much of Black Friday’s marketing buzz has become so much white noise, says April Carlisle, SVP, Global Shopper Marketing, Leo Burnett/Arc Worldwide. She fills Marketing Daily in on some of the consumer shifts that may be making America’s biggest shopping day -- still expected to appeal to some 97 million people -- a bit of a bust.



Q: So what’s happened to Black Friday?

A: It’s gotten so expanded it means less. 

With the days and deals blurred, all that's really left of Black Friday is nostalgia. Stores have so overdone the promotions that shoppers are skeptical, and rightly so. If they miss this sale, there will be another one tomorrow. And psychologically, earlier deals and openings have taken a lot of the fun out of it. It used to be exciting. Now, they’ve removed the anticipatory nature of it. 

Q: What has played the biggest role in those changed expectations? Is it all about technology and the Internet?

Stores and brands themselves. One-day-only deals are replaced by always-on deals. Stores “leak” discounts earlier every year, one-upping yesterday’s 20% off with 25% off and free shipping tomorrow. And digital fuels it. It’s all being pushed via Twitter, Facebook, email, Instagram and Pinterest. 

Q: Lots of experts would argue that the more promotions the better, that consumers like the thrill of the hunt and all that.

A: There's not much of a hunt. You rely on the best deal-watching sites and apps -- there’s something like 15 great apps that aggregate all the Black Friday deals near you. You don’t need to find deals, because they find you -- by email, by text. Now the biggest thrill comes when you get a text from UPS that the package is here, and you have to figure out how not to let your family see it. 

Q: So do you think the physical shopping -- the trek to the mall with thousands of others -- is passé?

A: Yes, among more people. Remember when people used to post pictures of themselves waiting in Black Friday lines on Facebook, like it was cool? I think more people are laughing at that, saying: ‘I sat home on my couch and got the same price.’”

Q: So what makes those shoppers feel smart, if they pooh-pooh the throngs?

A: Sharing on social sites. Bragging rights focus on deal-sharing, with experiences like Target’s Cartwheel. Your friends see how much you saved. And sites like ShopBop give you a $25 gift certificate when you invite friends to join.

Q: Are there other signs that the importance of Black Friday is becoming more diffuse?

A: Yes, I think it’s interesting how everyone is talking up Super Saturday, the last Saturday before Christmas. Shoppers are really prepared to wait it out.

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