Black Friday is the anti-Thanksgiving. Just one day after gathering with loved ones to give thanks, we stampede our favorite stores and clobber each other in search of the best deals. But in an age where just about everything can be delivered, ethically sourced, and discounted year-round, why is this single day still so important to the retail industry? Black Friday is a holiday tradition that needs to die once and for all.
The outlook for the approaching Black Friday is bleak. Many major retail companies (Gap, Macy’s, Nordstrom, Target, and Fossil among them) have reported less than stellar sales from the last quarter. Black Friday monsters like Wal-Mart are even predicting lower sales this year. With all the work that goes into Black Friday and the declining payoff, is it all really worth it?
Black Friday stands as a symbol of the retail industry’s continued refusal to adapt and change with its most influential customers. The idea of long lines, packed stores, and destroyed displays doesn’t draw millennials out in droves when Cyber Monday provides the same sales through the convenience of mobile apps. If brands want to capitalize on holiday spending, it might be time to come up with the next big thing.
Aside from the diminishing returns, Black Friday is an unforgiving day for retail employees. But companies like REI are choosing to value their employees over profits. The sportswear retailer is closing its doors on the retail holiday and encouraging employees and customers alike to #optoutside. Though it may seem like a big publicity stunt for the brand, it’s an admirable act of defiance in an industry that lives and dies by this single day.
The retail industry is facing unprecedented challenges that it has yet to figure out. And these problems can’t be solved by one day. While there are individual stores out there that are putting innovative solutions in place, the industry as a whole has yet to find the unlock to a growing problem. The inability to successfully connect with the millennial customer is very costly.
More and more each year, attention is directed to Small Business Saturday, the day that champions the stores which previously never stood a chance against major retailers during the holidays. The individualized approach of these smaller businesses (i.e. their sourcing, curating, and manufacturing processes) is resonating with a younger customer. If any of these aspects can be replicated amongst the bigger retailers, then perhaps things can turn around. But until then, expect the downward turn of Black Friday to continue.