For the past five years I’ve participated in Black Friday in one form or another. Typically I don’t spend money on the doorbusters like TV’s or computers but I usually go with friends who do. We go to have a great time staying out all night, meeting new people in line, and talking about last year’s antics. We’ll set up chairs, bring blankets (It’s usually cold that night despite being in Florida), stream Netflix from an iPad, and discuss our strategy (if that’s what you can call it) extensively. The point is, we have a good time together and we’re usually not in a rush for anything particular. Unfortunately, this year the big box stores have pushed store openings back so far into Thursday that an enjoyable Thanksgiving dinner with family has been replaced with a mad dash to the store for most American’s – the buyers and the employees who work for the sellers. Walmart opens at 8pm, Target at 9pm, and Best Buy at midnight.
For me, Thanksgiving is one of the most important holidays of the year and I’d write off “Black Friday” entirely this year if I could – but we actually do need a TV (old one was 7+ years old and we sold it). Like most American’s, we too are in a crunch and have to save pennies where we can – so $300 off on a TV that will last us another 7+ years is something hard to pass up. Yes, I will be venturing out to get my hands on one and I’m sure I’ll be accompanied by thousands of other people thanks to big box store’s desperation to generate more sales before the end of the quarter. It doesn’t surprise me that there is such a tremendous uproar by employees working through the night and by families like ours but I doubt anyone in Management is really listening. They know that in this economy their employees need jobs and are betting that the threats of walk-offs are nothing more than threats. To be honest, I’m sad for the employees. I know it is a tough job but in previous years they were compensated with holiday pay and typically not forced to leave their families on Thanksgiving day so early. This year though the work force is speaking up – loudly.
Just as management knows the employees need their jobs, they also know consumers need to save money – so regardless of when the stores open or how many people are angry about it, they see it as a win-win. In all reality though, it’s creating a marketing and PR nightmare. There are petitions making their way around the web, groups on Facebook who oppose the day entirely, large rebloggings on Tumblr from employees who will be affected, and articles describing this year’s “Black Friday” as both a PR breakdown and a huge success. If you measure success by dollars generated than yes, for the big box stores it will be a success. However, if you measure it by consumer experience and employee moral, it is a total failure. These things lay the foundation for longevity in the space or years of backlash on numerous levels. The real good news in all of this though is the outpouring of support for Small Business Saturday I’ve seen as a result. It was always important but the strong opposition for big box stores has grown into a tremendous opportunity for small businesses. If you observe the shift in trends for the last 10 years, you know this is where our country is headed – less national and more local.
If all of this has taught me one thing as an entrepreneur and marketer, it’s to listen to your customers extensively and keep them at the forefront of everything you do. Like you should do as a faithful spouse, put their interests above and beyond your own… always. The desperation to make a boat load of money and as quickly as possible has clearly outgrown the importance of the customer – at least in the eyes and practice of the world’s largest retailers. Make sure you get out on Saturday and buy something from a local small business, let them know you support their efforts in your community and their decision to stay closed on Thanksgiving to ensure family still comes first.
Have a question? Disagree? Want to exchange pleasentries? Leave a comment below. As always, you can reach me on Twitter @joshuahays or by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org