Club Chaos Agents - All Things Hollish, Wacked, and Jacked

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An Open Letter to Major Retailers - A Few Humble Proposals to Fix "Black Friday"

Dear Major Retail Establishment,

I haven't ever participated in the late night/early morning sales events that occur on Black Friday, so named because it's the first day of the year that most retail business begin to make a profit, or go into the black (as opposed to red).  Thankfully, I haven't had to do so yet, nor have I wanted to.  I guess I don't really consider myself to be a competitive shopper.  I do, however, have many anecdotes from friends and family alike about how miserable the experience really is, and it's only made worse when one comes away empty-handed (i.e. without the one special item that they showed up to buy in the first place).  Is it really a good idea to make your customers camp out like they are waiting for U2 tickets?  For that matter, shouldn't U2 tickets be easier to obtain?  But I digress....

 

I was thinking about how undesirable these settings have become, especially with the deaths that have occurred in recent years from trampling.  I started thinking about ways that retailers could correct the status quo, while still driving plenty of new shopping traffic.

 

Here are a few ideas I came up with after I slept in Friday morning at my in-laws' house in the Houston area:

 

Stagger the sale - Why not consider having separate mini-events throughout the day, rather than setting up a potential riot at 4 or 5am?  You could have one "big ticket" sale item that would go on sale at 9am, then another at 11am, 1pm, and so on.  Businesses would benefit from mini-surges of activity, evening out the hectic day a little bit.  Having worked as a retail manager back in the mid-90's, I know that this would be helpful.



Consider events for Saturday and beyond - Rather than focusing on one big whammy on the day after Thanksgiving, why not draw it out a bit by having a big event on Saturday, Sunday, and the weeks following?  I have a feeling that most retail companies are worried that if they don't hit a home run on Black Friday, they are doomed.  I think there are many, many shoppers who specifically avoid shopping on that day - try to capture their business, too!

 

Moving and mapping items - Rather than leaving the items in their normal departments, why not move them throughout the store and assign numbers to each of them?  Then, when you hand out the slips to people in line, their number will correspond with a unit inside.  This will serve two purposes: It will prevent a giant cluster of shoppers in one part of the store, AND it will force people who were only planning to buy one thing to check out another department (maybe you'll get add-on business this way?).


Golden ticket - This one is, of course, inspired by the Willie Wonka movies.  Throughout the course of November, issue a specified number of golden tickets, or cards, or something similar, to customers with a purchase.  These can be issued randomly, and they will entitle the bearer to ONE big sale item at 1/2 price on Black Friday (or the day of your choosing).  The phenomenal nature of this uber-discount could drive more customers to start shopping a bit earlier in the hopes of landing a ticket.  Make sure to promote heavily, as Willie did in the original movie.  As with mail-in rebates, most people won't get around to spending their ticket, but you will have made the initial sale.


Well, thanks so much for listening, faceless corporate entity.  I hope you will at least consider making some changes, so that we won't all have to finish eating Thanksgiving dinner, only to get out our sleeping bags and head for the closest big strip center next year.  

I am available for consulting on these matters if you need any help or further ideas.  My contact info is on the right.  

 

If you're looking for a home in the Austin area, you can also visit my primary website at www.austintexashomes.com.  Thanks!

Comment balloon 24 commentsJason Crouch • November 29 2009 09:10PM

Comments

Jason, some of your thoughts make sense, I like the golden chocolate bar myself. But corporate America being what it is, the temptation to change a bit and maybe loose a sale would be too much. Just last year a temp security guard in front of a Walmart got trampled to death by shoppers looking for that great deal.

Posted by Ed Silva, Central CT Real Estate Broker Serving all equally (RE/MAX Professionals, CT 203-206-0754 ) over 9 years ago

You had me at the Golden Ticket.  It's the only way to go!  Willie Wonka....where are you?

Posted by Larry Bettag, Vice-President of National Production (Cherry Creek Mortgage Illinois Residential Mortgage License LMB #0005759 Cherry Creek Mortgage NMLS #: 3001) over 9 years ago

I went to Macys Saturday afternoon, and if I hadn't had $200.00 in gift certificates for top producer in our firm, I wouldn't have bought anything.  I'm looking for REAL savings, not mark-up then mark-down specials.

Posted by Jean Kelly (,GRI, Kiser Realty - The La Cita Group) over 9 years ago

Jason.. It would be nice to see them change the proactice.. I know Target in our area had a shopper taken to the hospital this year.  By 11:00 PM, they were lined around the building and into the street.

Posted by Roland Woodworth, Q Realty - Power In Real Estate (Q Realty) over 9 years ago

Jason,

Have seen many of your ideas in practice. I actually shopped online and in the stores on Wednesday for Friday prices. Some prices were good through yesterday. Some sales were staggered. Good points. :)

Steve

Posted by Steve Hoffacker, Certified Aging In Place Specialist-Instructor (Steve Hoffacker LLC) over 9 years ago

Steve - I'm glad to hear that.  I don't think any of these have been implemented in this area.

Posted by Jason Crouch, Broker - Austin Texas Real Estate (512-796-7653) (Austin Texas Homes, LLC) over 9 years ago

Some great suggestions you have there. I'm definitely thinking that there is a conspiracy behind these sales. Toys R Us - especially!

Posted by Loreena and Michael Yeo, Real Estate Agents (3:16 team REALTY ~ Locally-owned Prosper TX Real Estate Co.) over 9 years ago

I think Black Friday is the most ridiculous practice I've heard of in a long long time.  I wouldn't participate even if it was introduced here.

Posted by Susan Emo, Kingston and the 1000 Islands Area (Sotheby's International Realty Canada - Brokerage) over 9 years ago

Jason - great points. The conspiracy theory is not far fetched. It's obvious companies would do much better if they staggered it out. 

 

Posted by Ron Borch over 9 years ago

Jason,

Well said!

I don't think original thinking is allowed on these matters. But, maybe I'm just bitter I can't stand in lines for long.

Bill

Posted by William J. Archambault, Jr. (The Real Estate Investment Institute ) over 9 years ago

All good alternatives... the frenzied rush though, is what retailers WANT as they compete in the rat race.

Posted by Diane Rice, SFR, SRES, CNC ( Rice Prprty Mgmnt & Rlty, LLC, South Holland, IL) over 9 years ago

I've never gond shopping on Black Friday, no appeal to me.  I like your advice, some really clever ideas.

Posted by Janna Scharf, Coeur d'Alene Idaho Real Estate Expert (Keller Williams Realty Coeur d'Alene) over 9 years ago

Some great ideas that would decrease the shopping stress and anxiety for many and perhaps get some out who avoid Black Friday like it's the Black Plague.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 9 years ago

Some great ideas that would decrease the shopping stress and anxiety for many and perhaps get some out who avoid Black Friday like it's the Black Plague.

Posted by Christine Donovan, Broker/Attorney 714-319-9751 DRE01267479 - Costa M (Donovan Blatt Realty) over 9 years ago

I do not do Black Friday.  It is insane.  Your suggestions might help.  I also agree that many stores are marking up to mark down now.  It is annoying.  Here's a thought provide honest good pricing year round.  Guess that wouldn't work huh???

Posted by Paddy (Patricia) Pizappi, Real Estate Associate Broker Hudson Valley NY (Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty) over 9 years ago

Great ideas, Jason. I would be all for that!

Posted by Linda Greco Rich, ABR, SRES, Harford County Specialist (Exit Preferred Realty) over 9 years ago

Always thinking, Jason, aren't you?  I shop when I can avoid crowds, so that's not Black Friday.

Posted by Marzena Melby, Realtor, Twin Cities Minnesota Real Estate (Coldwell Banker Burnet Realty) over 9 years ago

I liked your last suggestion the best.

Hand out those golden tickets. It's a win-win for everyone. The store makes the initial sale and the customer has the opportunity to be rewarded for supporting the store.

Posted by Craig Rutman, Raleigh, Cary, Apex area Realtor (Helping people in transition) over 9 years ago

Jason:  I'm with you, not a Black Friday shopper.  Never have been, never will be.  It brings out the the worst in our society.  We all clamor for that material thing and act like a bunch of inconsiderate, competitive morons in the process.  I've worked Black Friday from the other side of the retail counter.  I really don't get the madness.  The sales aren't even THAT good.

Posted by Chris Ann Cleland, Associate Broker, Bristow, VA (Long and Foster REALTORS®, Gainesville, VA) over 9 years ago

I don't leave the house on Black Friday

But I do sometimes send money and a list with friends.

 

Posted by Tom Burris, Texas/Louisiana Mortgage Pro - 13 YRS Experience (NMLS# 335055) over 9 years ago

Hi Jason,

I like your ideas..hope some of the retailers take your advice. I never shop on Black Friday..I want to put the tree up and chill!!

Posted by Dorie Dillard CRS GRI ABR, Serving Buyers & Sellers in NW Austin Real Estate (Coldwell Banker United Realtors® ~ 512.750.6899) over 9 years ago

I was out there at 4:00 am.  Just to support my wife.  Mostly well behaved although there were a few cutting the line once the door opened.  Maybe some of you ideas will take hold.  They all make sense. 

Posted by Lee Barroll (SWBC Mortgage) over 9 years ago

When the retailers get smart...they will stop the baloney of these odd hours and sales.  They will save money in labor, lighting, and potential damage to merchandise that people bang up trying to get to the great deals. 

When they stop the super sales( or what they claim to be) they will also see a net percentage increase in their profit.

Posted by William Feela, Realtor, Whispering Pines Realty 651-674-5999 No. (WHISPERING PINES REALTY) over 9 years ago

Heck how about offer smaller little deals everyday instead of one day a year.

Posted by Respect Realty LLC, Brokers - Oregon / SW Washington Real Estate (Respect Realty LLC) over 9 years ago

Participate