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Why Black Friday Should Merit Attention Throughout the Year

By Jul 28, 2011

Black Friday is coming. That Friday before Thanksgiving has been a boon for retailers, jumpstarting the holiday shopping season by offering door-buster deals starting in the wee hours of the morning to get consumers in a buying mood that hopefully lasts through the New Year. But retailers, eager to replay the day and generate sales, are watering down its effects by marketing and using the term, and its connotation at other times of the year.

“When you start using the term that frequently and that widely the problem is it begins to take away the importance of the day’s event,” Jane Bailey, vice president of planning and perspectives at retail marketing agency TPN said. “Black Friday used to offer the hottest deals of the year and if you’re using that term four or five times a year, how can consumers really rely on it and how much farther do you have to cut prices the day after Thanksgiving.”

Consumers know the bargains are coming and they now cherry pick the best deals over a much longer period of time decreasing basket rings and driving retailers over the last few years to slash margins to be able to offer deals that will get consumers in. The key, experts says, is to use the other 364 days of the year to build a relationship with consumers so they know your store and its products.

“It’s very easy to have these seductive little offers on Black Friday. That’s nice for getting people off the sofa, but what are retailers really doing to build basket ring and margin. It’s about getting shoppers to look at the rest of the store,” Bailey said.

Here are four ways retailers can improve their marketing calendars to increase sales and brand loyalty throughout the year.

Be Selective on when and why you use the term Black Friday. A good example was Home Depot’s “Black Friday” event around the Memorial Day weekend. It’s a time period when sales peak, the weather warms and homeowners are planning home improvement projects.

“The idea of getting consumers in and they’ll shop more broadly is less so now,” Bailey said. “So retailers really need to be planning. How do you get consumers to shop the store more broadly and not just come in for the hottest deals on one day at 4 am.”

Offer Deals Throughout the Year on a weekly or monthly basis to draw consumers in and build that relationship. They’ll get to know your store and its products so when Black Friday arrives and throughout the holiday season they will shop the store more frequently and broadly. Retailer Target applies this strategy offering really great prices on some of its products at various times. Consumers who purchase the products get a $20 to $50 gift card, depending on the product, which gets them back into the store.

“You get the gift card at check out so it prompts the shopper to come in for another visit,” Bailey said.

Start Early Shoppers are shopping earlier and throughout entire major shopping seasons like back-to-school and holiday. They are looking at and buying products when they see the sharpest value, even after the “official” season has ended. For example, shopping the clearances after the school year begins. Retailers should begin offering deals on giftable holiday merchandise, like electronics and toys, as early as mid October.

“Last year, we saw a larger percentage of people shopping more than a month out from Christmas,” Bailey said. “Consumers are starting to look at holiday sales in October and November and purchasing when they see good prices. They are very savvy and much more selective. Retailers need to start showing and offering good deals to get people to shop the category and hopefully pick up additional merchandise.”

Consistency Ensure an engaging shopping experience throughout the year. Does the store have the right assortment? Are advertised items in stock? Is checkout fast and efficient?

“It’s over an entire year that a consumer needs to count on that retailer, that’s what will bring them in,” Bailey said. “It’s about how you run your store all year. It’s not just about black Friday, it’s about offering the right merchandise and building the relationship with the customer. If you offer the selection of merchandise that appeals to them they’ll come in more often have more familiarity with products and be able to build the basket through out the year.”

TPN ranked No. 36 on the 2011 PROMO 100 listing of the Top 100 U.S. promotion agencies with an estimated $32.9 million in net revenue.