Amazon is supposedly killing Black Friday by introducing their holiday sales immediately after Halloween. The trend over the last few years of getting a jump on the huge shopping day by starting on Thanksgiving created some backlash and companies are differentiating themselves be deciding not to open their door on the day that is traditionally spent with family.
Much of the concern is around the protection of the holiday. But I have a problem with the name Black Friday, as every self-respecting consumer should.
What’s in a name? Everything
In an era of increased focus on the customer experience, we have this new tradition that has nothing to do with the best interest of the customer and everything to do with the interest of the retailers. Since a significant portion of many retailers’ profits are earned during the Christmas holiday season, Black Friday is intended to be the day the retailers start their journey to the year’s profitability. (For those younger readers, before all accounting was done on a computer, adding machines that printed out figures were used to crunch numbers. To make it easier to see the difference between the positive and negative, anything positive was printed in regular black ink and negative numbers were printed in red. Hence the term “In the black” to indicate a profitable effort.) I describe this to my kids as the day the stores have arranged their annual wealth transfer day – from the consumers’ pockets to theirs.
“Oh, but the consumers are getting great deals,” you say
Potentially, but at what cost to us? We have the opportunity to:
- Disrupt our family time that is usually spent on food, fun, and football because getting a deal is more important than enjoying the relatives who have traveled to spend time with us for this weekend
- Wake up on our day off at a hour that is way earlier than many get up to on a regular work day
- Stand in long lines to wait for the doors to open
- Risk our physical safety as droves of other early-bird shoppers execute on their mission to get that low priced TV as though their lives depended on it
- Risk not actually getting that TV or computer we targeted since only a few of them are available for purchase at the advertised price
- Engage in this unpleasant ritual often to purchase merchandise that is an old, discontinued model or some low quality version designed exclusively for the Black Friday rush
This does not sound to me like the type of business model that is concerned about the customer experience at all but more like the wealth transfer experience the name suggests.
Thinking about the customer experience and not just our wallets
Were the emphasis to truly be placed on the customer, the retail holiday season might look more like this:
- Real products that we and our families have been wanting throughout the year would be in abundant supply at a good price
- The sales would last throughout the holiday season so that buyers can either prepare or procrastinate as they choose
- Special deals might be offered during the times that seniors and stay at home parents may find it more convenient to shop
- Stores might stay open later for those with longer work hours
- The online and in store pricing and inventory would match to enable customers to skip the lines all together
- Some “good” inventory would remain up until the very last few days before Christmas so that the loved ones of the procrastinators do not end up with Chia pets and ugly slippers as their only gifts
Amazon is being accused of killing Black Friday by addressing some of the items on the customer-centric shopping experience list. I’m not sure that’s such a bad thing.