by Ron Daly
Thanksgiving? What's Thanksgiving? I scarcely remember.
The days of slaving over a hot stove to produce the perfect turkey and watching endless hours of football and falling asleep on the couch are gone. Now, it's all about sales.
Black Friday, that long-loved gem of the retail industry, is only a week away. Or is it actually less than a week away? Many stores are choosing to start their "Black Friday" on Thursday evening, so the deals are actually only six days out from now.
Why the bump-up? Because stores want to jump-start the frenzy that is the holiday shopping season, their busiest and most lucrative season of the year. Just like your local soft-rock station wants to start playing Christmas music earlier and earlier each year, stores are trying to get people frothing at the mouth over retail deals. I'd wager it won't be long before we have a "Black November" — an entire month of shopping and scrambling around stores as Halloween costumes get chucked out of major retail chains around October 15 and all the December Holiday decorations go up instead. What a nightmare.
Maybe I'm not alone in my frustration with the ever-earlier holiday season. Nielsen reports that only 13% of shoppers are going to physical stores on Black Friday this year. There are conflicting reports from other sources, but this Time article corrects the confusion with a simple look at the numbers: while some 30-40% of all shoppers plan to shop on Black Friday (Black Thursday-into-Friday?), very few plan on doing it at a physical location. Most will be shopping online, from the warmth and comfort of home.
They'll never even have to put down their turkey leg.
Plenty of Hustle, Not So Much Bustle
We've come to the age of "online-first" shopping. People are still snapping up those great deals and printing their coupons and getting the most for their money...they're just doing it from their living room. Why go get mobbed by a bunch of crazy people that are fighting over a toaster oven? Just order it and have it delivered. Amazon Prime pays for itself surprisingly quickly.
Retailers have the wrong idea, spreading the start-point of Black Friday over into Thursday. They should be making those hours smaller and tighter for physical shoppers and have in-store pickup for online shoppers. Now that would be handy - have a table where everything you ordered a few weeks before waits for you – already gift-wrapped, tagged, and ready to go. Then, if you're on your way out and you have an inkling, pick up some last-minute impulse items. That cuts down on labor-hours, upkeep, clean-up, parking frustrations and rowdy crowds.
Look at what stores like GameStop are doing with video game systems - pre-orders preferred and even rewarded with extras, yet the gaming nerds are still allowed to line up on the street. The online shoppers AND the physical shoppers get their just reward, without a lot of eye-gouging and body-blows. Better still, the store knows how many units to order in advance of the release of the product. Maybe that idea scales up easily, maybe it doesn't...but does ruining a bunch of people's Thanksgiving dinner really build excitement anymore?
People are more reliant than ever on the online channel to get things done. That goes for retailers and for credit unions. We can't just wish it was different and that people will like going to physical locations again. We have to meet demand where we find it.
And let me tell you, the only Friday event I care about after Thanksgiving is "Leftovers Day". Turkey sandwiches with stuffing and mashed potatoes, here I come.