November 29, 2018

We’re so over Black Friday (San Francisco Chronicle) »

Another Black Friday has come and gone, with all the associated hoopla. Amazon even had a “Black Friday sales week,” with a nine-day shopping promotion Nov. 16-25 offering different sales every day.

Sure, we all love a good deal, but the Black Friday marketing trope has begun to feel as outdated as a Victoria’s Secret shop window selling puritanically sexy “Angels” — a relic of an earlier era in which camping out overnight was the proven path toward snagging an X-Box 360. Nostalgia aside, what is appealing about spending a day off in crowded stores?

The Bay Area seems particularly disillusioned with physical shopping. Prior to Black Friday, 28 percent of Bay Area shoppers said they planned to be less reliant on in-store shopping and spend less in stores compared to the national average, reported consulting firm Deloitte, which conducts an annual holiday survey.

Meanwhile, experiential gifting is on the upswing, particularly among Gen Z and Millennials: 49 percent said they will give experiences this year (including food and beverages, event tickets, spa visits and certificates). Deloitte reports Bay Area shoppers plan to spend less on gifts and significantly more on socializing away from home.

It’s right in line with experiential retail. This approach emphasizes Instagrammable in-store moments over hard-hitting bargains, and gives shoppers incentives to visit the store by offering sensory stimuli that one can’t experience on a phone or laptop.

For example, home-goods store Parachute recently opened in San Francisco promising “unique, interactive components such as a stone sink that allows customers to test and feel the absorbency of their towel selection.” Dyson lets people throw confetti on the carpet — and then vacuum it up. San Francisco apparel etailer ModCloth has a FitShop where customers can try on and then order merchandise online.

“The role of the retail store and shopping center will continue to transform from a transactional-only model to an immersive and experiential one,” reports JLL Retail chief executive officer Greg Maloney, in the firm’s holiday shopping report. He predicts holiday sales growth of 6 percent this year.

So if authenticity and personalization are paramount, why does the holiday shopping season seem to discount the importance of a comfortable, intimate retail experience? And why on earth would brands try to beckon customers on what might be the least appealing shopping day of the year?

Because they can’t afford not to.

Although the holiday season is a huge moneymaker for retailers, Black Friday is a bit of a misnomer. For starters, it’s no longer relegated to one day.

The shopping season now lasts almost two months, starting as early as Nov. 1, according to NPD retail expert Marshal Cohen. Almost half of consumers planned to start shopping before Thanksgiving, with fewer consumers planning to shop up until the last minute, according to NPD. This year will also see a “Super Saturday” — the Saturday before Christmas, which is on a Tuesday this year — another opportunity for retailers to market to holiday shoppers, Cohen reports.

That’s especially good news for independent retailers in California. Womply, a software provider that looked at data from 54,000 local U.S. retailers in 2017, found that the best week for California retailers was Dec. 17-23; the week that included Black Friday was second best. Overall, the months of November and December account for almost 18 percent of annual revenue generation and 17 percent of the year’s total transactions, according to Womply.

The JLL report found that 44 percent of consumers surveyed planned to spend more than $500 on gifts this season. It also reports that retailers with a physical presence will see a 57.3 percent share of holiday shopping when it comes to where consumers plan to complete the majority of their purchases, with a third of Millennial women saying they would be doing most of their holiday shopping at a department store. The top brands for holiday shoppers are Amazon (22 percent), Walmart (16 percent), Target (12 percent), Macy’s and Best Buy (both at 4 percent).

Experiential giving among the younger generations notwithstanding, almost half of Bay Area shoppers planned to maintain their reliance on Black Friday this year, according to Deloitte research. Throughout the holiday season, Bay Area shoppers are expected to spend $1,980 per household, which is up 34 percent from last year, and shoppers plan to buy more gifts this year. But the early Bay Area shoppers — those who don’t wait until Black Friday — spend even more, at $2,148.

Thus, perhaps shoppers feel that retail roughing it shows just how much they care: What one might eschew, personally — combative customers, disheveled shelves, barn-storming bargains and aggressive holiday cheer — we feel we owe to our gift recipients. Perhaps it feels more authentic to be a martyr at the mall than to click and collect. But is there no better way to say “I thought of you” than by busting down a door?

Apparently, yes.

According to NPD, “blended retail” is an increasingly popular way to shop during the holidays, with six out of 10 consumers saying they will shop both online and in brick-and-mortar stores. “Online shopping drives significant holiday spending over those peak days,” Cohen said. “Some traditions remain, but more and more consumers are forgoing the Black Friday trip to the mall and doing their shopping online over more days.”

Some brands even marketing resistance to Black Friday hysteria.

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