Managing Black Friday

If you are reading this from anywhere besides the US, just to let you know, Black Friday is a cultural phenomenon.  

"Black Friday" started as a retail term because the high sales the day after Thanksgiving took retailers "from the red to the black" in their accounting ledgers.

I have fond memories of my mom going through all the newspaper inserts while we were all in a food coma from Thanksgiving and plotting a strategy for Friday shopping.  As an adult I've gotten up a couple of times at 4am to stand in line for a big ticket item.

As a marketer, I see Black Friday differently. You only have so much budget for Christmas shopping. The first retailer to pull you in has the best opportunity to get a large portion of that budget. It is why there is so much pressure to start Black Friday before the day begins and why many retailers now open on Thursday.  (A trend that saddens me.)

The marketers use a number of strategies including the idea of scarcity. Make no mistake, marketing is a science based on how emotions drive behavior and retail marketers are experts in this. (If they aren't, then their companies don't succeed.)  We make a lot of ego-based purchases especially when it comes to gift giving. (It should come as no surprise that most marketing for products focuses on identity rather than the product itself.)  Also, we love getting a deal. There is a huge emotion payoff in paying less for something.

While there may be some loss-leaders on the list, they are few. The retailer has to make a substantial profit to pay for real estate, lights, clerks, etc. (Remember what I said earlier about Black Friday taking retailers into the black?)

So, if you enjoy shopping, plan your day.  Have fun.  Just keep in mind the emotions that are driving your purchases. We outsmart the marketers when we become aware of that.

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Maira Gall