Drop 'Til They Shop
Warren Shoulberg -- Home Textiles Today, 12/5/2011 2:00:00 AM
AS YOU READ THIS, Black Friday will be but a distant gray memory, replaced by all manner of promotional flimflam and merchandising larceny that would make P.T. Barnum blush.
What with Cyber Monday and First-Week-of-December Deals and Terrific Tuesday (watch for it, it's coming), the hysteria surrounding the days after Thanksgiving seem like so-11-days ago.
It sure was something, though, wasn't it? Record numbers of shoppers. Insane crowds chasing even-more-insane deals. Stores opening when people should be home passed out from too much tryptophan. Incredible online numbers. Shoppers pepper spraying each other to get the last flat-panel in the store. Mobile out of control. Cats and dogs manning call centers in India. Madness.
But the fat shopper has not sung yet, so with three weeks left to holiday 2012, it remains to be seen how the final numbers will work out. Certainly, all of this early-season hype has stolen from sales that would have occurred later in the month. How much, we don't know. And just as certainly, the days after Thanksgiving have never particularly proven themselves to be an accurate barometer of the season overall, just as back-to-school is not necessarily a harbinger of holiday. Each is a separate entity onto itself and must be looked at in that way.
But we can draw certain conclusions. Most obvious is that promotions do in fact work. The customer needs that little something extra to get them into the store - or online - and push the buy button. That seems to be true more so this year than ever before.
We're also seeing some bits and pieces of the promotional push back from consumers who feel enough is enough and that the retail world has gone too far with its sales efforts. This seems to be more anecdotal than widespread, and while it's unlikely to morph into an Occupy the Shopping Mall movement, it is something retailers need to be aware of.
They also have to start figuring out what in the world they are going to do next year. Like the guy who sets himself on fire and then is shot out of a cannon into a pit of alligators, it's a tough act to follow. You can't open any earlier on Black Friday than midnight and any true attempt to get most retailing to open on Turkey Day itself is going to cross the line with consumers.
We're sure stores will figure out more gimmicks and stunts to get shoppers all hot and bothered - they are very good at that, after all - but the bar has certainly been raised (maybe that's lowered?) this year.
Through it all, however, the very foundation of the retailing business has again been confirmed: People want to buy stuff and if you give them a good reason to do so, they will. For Apple, it's great products. For Neiman and Nordstrom, it's exclusivity and the allusion - if not always the reality - of luxury. And for most other retailers, it's cheap prices.
Like the addict who needs just one more fix, retailers have scored this holiday. Scored big, at least so far. When we all wake up from our shopping hangover on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012 we'll see how it all went. It may not have been pretty, but it will have probably worked...again.
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