Black Fridays All Year Long

PLMALIVE - Vosburgh

In this edition of PLMALive! Bob Vosburgh explains that consumers no longer have to wait until Thanksgiving weekend to shop for big savings.

Black Fridays All Year Long

For years Black Friday has meant only one thing: The day after Thanksgiving Day, the official kickoff to the holiday shopping season. It got its name from the long-held belief that — after a long year of operating at a loss, or “in the red” — retailers finally jumped into “the black” as a result of post-Thanksgiving sales. Retailers spend months secretly preparing their special deals; and make a huge event of unveiling their official Black Friday circulars. Consumers eagerly await the sales, and these days, the turkey isn’t even cold before shoppers are hitting the stores in search of those “Door Buster” specials. Well, there’s no longer any need to wait for late November to enjoy Black Friday. Now, there are Black Fridays in spring, and even a few in summer. Winter, of course, is already taken.

Home Depot adopted the Black Friday approach three years ago when it launched “Spring Black Friday” sales in April. The twist here is that the home improvement chain promotes heavily discounted lawnmowers, mulch and patio furniture in a bid to get consumers thinking about – and buying into – springtime outdoors.

Last year, Walmart jumped into the fray with a similar focus on lawn and garden care. More than 60 items were specially priced and huge pallet displays showed they meant business.

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Summer also seems to be a special time for retailers to take up Black Friday-type sales. Meijer cuts to the chase and calls their event “Black Friday in July.” The Michigan-based retailer launched its event in 2012, and – according to officials – is second only to the real Black Friday in terms of customer interest. Meijer complements the in-store sales items with an online promotion called “Summer Cyber Week.”

Petco also operates an online “Black Friday in July” affair. The one-day sale offers a percentage off select items with a minimum purchase amount, along with free shipping.

And let’s not forget the hoopla that surrounded Amazon Prime Day this past July. The one-day sale was billed as “Better than Black Friday,” with severe discounts for the online retailer’s Prime subscription customers. It was heavily promoted and scrutinized by analysts. Critics quickly likened it to a garage sale of sorts, pointing to some of the site’s more bizarre deals, such as a chef’s hat for $4.65, a five-pound bag of Red Hots candy for $13.50, and a giant, 24-inch shoehorn for $11.99.

Of course, “Black Friday” is usually all about national brands and who can sell them the cheapest. It’s the hook retailers use to get consumers to their front doors at 3 in the morning. The fact is that retailers might do better promoting their own brands, their private label.  It’s something that the private label industry has been saying for many years: When you rely on national brands — which are available everywhere — there isn’t much to drive traffic besides the downward spiral of price, and lower price.

Store brands have that unique quality that can only be purchased at a retailer’s own stores. Let’s hope that retail executives will start creating “Store Brands Friday’s.”

Because let’s face it: The original Black Friday seems to be losing its relevance anyway. The latest trend is for stores to open right after dinnertime on Thanksgiving Day, which — as everyone knows — is a Thursday.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.