Retail Holiday Kickoff: Will Orange Become Shoppers' New Black?

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, November 19, 2014
It’s almost here: retail’s big day. The be-all and end-all of shopping. Black Friday. For decades, these post-Thanksgiving deals and hyped promotions have served as the official kickoff to holiday shopping. But this year, several major retailers seem to have tilted that tradition on its head.

With Halloween candy barely off the shelves, many stores jumped into full swing November 1 with big holiday deals and promotions. Walmart, Amazon, Lowe’s, Sears and a host of others (big box and small) helped make the buzz phrase “Orange Saturday” a new part of our marketing vernacular. Post-Halloween looked like it might become the new post-Thanksgiving. And orange looked like it might become the new black, at least in terms of the seasonal shopping kickoff.

Some grumbled in Grinch-like voices about retailers and their marketing ploys. But could this early holiday kickoff actually meet a consumer need? Would shoppers respond? As we await the season’s sales numbers, here are a few hypotheses on why shoppers just might embrace the new “Orange” kickoff strategy and give Black Friday some real competition.



1. Plenty of consumers are ready to holiday shop. You know the type—they’ve been making lists and checking them twice since June. For those poised to kick shopping into high gear, the early deals and holiday themes may be welcome inspiration. Walmart stated its goal well: “When you’re ready, we want to be ready.”

2. Many may appreciate a longer, gentler approach to the season. According to a just-released Deloitte study, only 9% plan to hit the stores on Black Friday. A majority of shoppers clearly don’t like the pressure of crowds and impending holiday deadlines. A more relaxed pace could create more enjoyable shopping, more time for browsing and impulse, and in the end, more sales for retailers.

3. More lead-time equals more budget flexibility. It may seem counter-intuitive, but cash-strapped shoppers generally prefer the buy-as-you-go method. It takes the pressure off trying to stockpile savings or make a big holiday spend in the final weeks if money’s tight. Purchasing a little at a time helps shoppers manage.

4. Buying early is one way to guarantee gifts. Remember the Christmas debacle of 2013? Lots of people (especially online shoppers) waited until the last weeks to buy. They were greeted by out-of-stocks, back orders and two-day shipping promises that took more like two weeks. Shoppers learned their lessons. Buying early ensures your gifts make it under the tree.

5. Retailers will make it safe to jump in early. Retailers want shoppers to buy now, so they won’t intentionally punish them by lowering prices later in the season. It’s likely that we’ll continue to see different items featured in Orange vs. Black promotions and that shoppers will be guaranteed refunds on any prices lowered through the season.

The coming weeks will tell how many shoppers are getting on the early holiday bandwagon. In addition to the “Orange” strategy, many retailers are starting to leak their post-Thanksgiving sales now, with longer windows to take advantage of deals. While none of these actions will eclipse the impact of Black Friday anytime soon, the early promotions may mark the start of a trend worth watching. 

If retail moves to a multistage holiday kickoff (Orange and Black), it would essentially double the holiday selling season and have big implications for marketers: different deals for planners and procrastinators; understanding “recon trips” around gifting vs. actual buying occasions; and of course, the question of which investments and timing will yield the greatest sales results with shoppers.

It’s a welcome rethink of traditions for marketers, where the earliest and most innovative will reap the gift of big holiday sales—all wrapped up in a nice orange-and-black bow.
1 comment about "Retail Holiday Kickoff: Will Orange Become Shoppers' New Black?".
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  1. Mike Lauber from Tusco Display, November 19, 2014 at 11:41 a.m.

    I agree wholeheartedly. Black Friday only became common within the past two decades. Shopping for deals has become more fluid and less driven by scarcity because shoppers have instant access to the world from their smartphone, tablet and PC. Black Fri has already leached into Thanksgiving week and, as you note, into the entire month of Nov. Black wanes, Orange gains and retail changes - to meet shoppers where they are and when they want to buy.

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