Last year we spent Black Friday checking what was going on in stores in the Chicago area. We prepared this list of observations for the various media outlets that contacted us. We thought you would like to see it:
1. Black Friday, The day after Thanksgiving, officially marks the start of the holiday shopping season. In order to cash in on Black Friday retailers had to capture "first business" -- and capturing first business this year was all about the "deal" each store had to offer.
2. Most "Door Buster" specials (the preferred terminology this year, replacing last years "Early Bird Specials") began at 5:00 AM, some ran until 12:00 noon. Stores that did not run a door buster special lost out -- these stores were empty.
3. Reports of shoppers lining up at midnight were common. On Chicago radio station WGN a caller reported that people were in line for cheap computers at the Best Buy store in Elmhurst, Illinois at 7:30 PM on Thanksgiving. The store had 15 (the ad read that the store would have a minimum of 15), and although the caller was number 12 in line she did not receive a voucher for the computer. She wasn't very happy.
4. There were reports of people being trampled, and fights breaking out, in various stores across the country as shoppers who had waited on line for hours rushed in to grab merchandise. Some retailers took this completely out of the equation by giving vouchers for specific product to shoppers waiting on line to get in to the store.
5. The "Kamikaze Shoppers" were out in droves, grabbing product on their lists. The websites that outed Black Friday items before Thanksgiving, the traditional ad drop day, added to the frenzy. Shoppers were able to determine the stores they wanted to hit first earlier. This means that in 2006 retailers will have to come up with something other than just great doorbuster items to attract shoppers. We suspect we'll see more gimmicks such as 50 percent off of any one item coupons as door busters. This way every shopper wins.
6. The danger is if the store cannot get shoppers through the check out lines fast enough, some shoppers experience buyers remorse and will leave the line. Wait times in the early morning hours were one half hour and longer. Lines at Wal-Mart stores were reported to be all the way to the back of the store, with anticipated wait times of up to 3 hours.
7. The Target store in Algonquin, Illinois had 150 + people in line at 5:00 AM when the store opened. We received a call that a Target store in Michigan had one associate in each aisle of the store assist shoppers -- great idea!
8. Westfield Shopping Mall in Skokie, Illinois gave shoppers "Power Shopping Bags": large red shopping bags that were filled with foam inserts to relieve tired feet, a bottle of water, chocolate, and more. The shopper who presented the heaviest shopping bag won prizes, including a $100 gift card to the mall.
9. The magic number this year seemed to be 60 percent off. Penney's, for example, did 60 percent off of certain items, plus an extra 10 percent until noon. Jo-Ann Fabrics also had many items at 60 percent off all day.
10. GNC (General Nutrition Centers) offered a free $10 gift card when you purchased a $25 gift card, and a free $20 gift card when you purchased a $50 gift card. Many other retailers gave free gift cards to the first 100 shoppers. And at Target certain items also came with free gift cards.This is a twist on the Bounce Back Coupons commonly used to attract shoppers back to the store after the initial visit. Gift cards and gift certificates are a win-win for retailers. According to a study by ValueLink, the gift and spending card service of First Data Corporation, 54 percent of consumers spend the initial value of their gift card within one month; 61 percent of consumers spend the initial value of their gift card in their first visit; and 56 percent of consumers spend more than the initial value of their card.
11. Many apparel stores, including The Gap, ran "Buy one at regular price and receive the second item at 50 percent off". These offers fell flat. The offer wasn't exciting, and because there was no door buster deals, there was no urgency.
12. Victoria's Secret gave a large "Model's Tote Bag" filled with sample size product to shoppers who spent $50 or more. The many stores we stopped in were almost out of the bags by noon. Shoppers respond to gifts with purchase (GWP), especially in stores where GWP are not expected.
13. The shopping frenzy slowed down considerably after 12:00. Stores that had all day specials -- coupons good from 12:00 to 2:00 PM, or specials that ran for a limited time throughout the day -- reported stronger traffic.
14. Monday, November 28 has been named "Cyber Monday" by the National Retail Federation. In 2004 on-line sales were very strong on this day. Analysts believe that office workers will continue the shopping momentum from their desks. Many websites are offering free shipping along with other deals to attract cyber shoppers.
15. The next big shopping day of 2005 is the Saturday before Christmas -- December 17. (2005 is a little confusing because Christmas Eve is actually is the Saturday before Christmas, but the 17th is the big shopping day.)
According to the International Council of Shopping Centers, the top two shopping days for each of the past few years has been as follows:
2002: Saturday, December 21 and Monday, December 23
2001: Saturday, Dec. 22, and Saturday, Dec. 15
2000: Saturday, Dec. 23, and Friday, Dec. 22
1999: Saturday, Dec. 18, and Thursday, Dec. 23
This trend shows that the highest sales day is moving toward the last Saturday before Christmas. Watch for retailers to do big things in their stores on this day as well.