Take Back the Holiday

blackFriday_CrowdFriday, November 27, is the unofficial/official start to the holiday shopping season. Stores open up in the dark hours of twilight enticing customers with slashed prices and bundled deals. Some stores slash prices so low that the store doesn’t even make a profit- it’s all just to get sleepy, discount hungry customers in their doors. The past few years, stores have opened their doors up earlier and earlier and now stores are opening up on Thanksgiving Day.

But different surveys have shown that Black Friday is slowly losing traction. Originally, Black Friday was a response to the recession when stores needed a competitive advantage to get shoppers to do what they do best: buy products for the Holidays. To get these customers in their store, retailers had to spend millions on marketing and advertising.

With the push of mobile applications, shoppers have been able to shop in the comfort of their own homes rather than going to a physical store. Stores like Amazon allow consumers to shop online for deals and see immediately if the item they want is still available or out of stock. Mobile shopping is taking shoppers out of the store and causing retailers to increase their incentives and advertising budget to get shoppers to their physical location.

Over the past decade, more police and emergency crews have been called to help retailers with surging crowds on Black Friday. Shoppers will stop at nothing to get their hands on these discounted items, even if it comes at the price of someone’s broken bones. Employees and even some shoppers started petitions to keep stores closed during the holiday and their voices are finally being heard. Some shoppers feel that these stores are taking away from the family-centered holiday with their door busting deals.

OPTOUT2Not only do these affect shoppers, but it affects the retail workers as well. Black Friday is a long, stressful day for retail workers trying to please late-night shoppers. Workers morale dips low during the Black Fri day season because of the early hours and late nights. I have personally worked at a very popular clothing store in the height of Black Friday. After clocking in a 13-hour day, starting at 3 am, and pressing through the shopping chaos, I was finally allowed to start cleaning the store to go home. Most managers are stressed thin because of the chaos in the store, and in turn pass that stress to their employees who opened the store at the witching hour.

Stores have taken notice and decided to implement a new strategy to get the competitive edge while also gaining brand awareness and public support. There are currently 22 stores that have pledged to keep their doors shut during Thanksgiving. These stores include H&M, Lowes, Publix, Barnes and Noble, Dillards, and DSW. But one stored in particular went above and beyond this and are closing their doors all of Black Friday as well.

REI is encouraging their shoppers to stay outside and enjoy time with their family instead of running through the mall. The outdoor equipment company is living up to its motto and paying its employees to enjoy the holiday season in “hopes to see you in the great outdoors.” REI is taking over the internet with the movement #OPTOutside; posting pictures and stories of adventure seekers. The store is now receiving countless amounts of support by focusing on celebrating Thanksgiving than on Christmas shopping.

OPTOUT1However, if you take a step back and take a look, REI is receiving much more media attention than if they were to open their doors. The company has drastically increased their advertising budget and online campaigns to inform the public that they are indeed not going to be open on Black Friday. The company realized that there is much more profit to be had by shutting down than selling their products for manufacturer’s price.

This unofficial holiday doesn’t come cheap — retailers spend upwards of ¼ billion dollars in advertisements in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving. Top stores like Wal-Mart, Target, and Macy spend between $25 and $57 million dollars in advertisements during November 3 through November 15. Advertisements are known to be expensive; however, consumers don’t realize the amount of money that gets funneled into cyber advertisements as well. Companies will spend close to 2 million dollars on Google Adwords to receive more online visibility and beat their competitors in search engine results.

REI is changing the tone of Black Friday by closing its doors and telling their customers to enjoy time with their families. It’s not clear if the store is basing their new campaign off of really getting out and enjoying the outdoors, or if they needed to bring more attention and media buzz to their retail stores.