For more of my holiday expectations:
On Wednesday afternoon I visited several retailers in advance of Black Friday. As many retailers have moved up their Black Friday opening times to Thursday afternoon and evening my visit was about 24 hours prior to their respective Black Friday openings. Here are a few remarks on what I saw:Staples
Staples didn’t appear to have any of their Black Friday inventory within the view of customers in the store. I also noted that some of the items listed in their Black Friday circular don’t appear to be SKUs they carry on a regular basis. For example, Staples has several laptops listed that weren’t on display within their laptop section. I did talk with a sales associate about some of their Black Friday items. When I mentioned Black Friday he asked if I had “previewed the Black Friday circular.” Just a few years ago, there would have been no talk of any items on the official Black Friday circular in advance of the official release of the promotions which happened on the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving when circulars hit driveways across America. But in the last two years retailers have begun releasing their ads early. As a result retailers have implemented several new strategies to drive traffic in advance of Black Friday. I’ll discuss some of these trends in more depth in my next holiday post.
Upon first walking into hhgregg you are greeted by stacks of TVs and other merchandise piled up. But then you quickly realize this is the status quo for hhgregg and they always have merchandise stacked in piles throughout the store. hhgregg was one of the first retailers I’m aware of that began offering Black Friday pricing during the entire week so all of the promoted discounts in the store during my visit were their Black Friday deals. In fact, I’m not sure if they have any Black Friday deals that aren’t available during the entire week. Last year I bought one of their Black Friday promoted TVs on the day before Thanksgiving. Like last year, it wasn’t apparent to me that many of those in the store were aware of these promotions. Rather, those in store appeared to be browsing throughout the store rather than coming in for a specific item. Last year, hhgregg still had strong traffic on Black Friday even though they offered the same pricing during the week. I expect the same this year. Consumers seem to like some of the frenzy of Black Friday. On my visit, the area in the back corner where the mattress are traditionally displayed was barricaded off. Below are a few photos. It looked like this was being used as a staging area for Black Friday.
While I didn’t capture a photo, the aisles were being filled with Walmart’s Black Friday items. They were kept in large stacks and then wrapped in clear plastic wrap together with a notice that read something like “items not for sale until event.” Outside of the store, the metal barricades used to manage the crowds were in place. Similar to my experience at Staples, I couldn’t find some of the items listed on their circulars. Some of the TVs were not on display within Walmart’s normal TV display area. Walmart’s circulars don’t include specific model numbers in most instances so it is often difficult to determine which items are promoted until the actual sales event – when a pallet of items will likely be present in an aisle. For example, Walmart is promoting an LG Blu-ray player as one of three guaranteed in stock items (together with an Apple iPad with $75 Walmart gift card and a 32″ Emerson TV). Walmart carries several LG Blu-ray players, but it is impossible to tell if one of these is the BD player being offered.
Earlier this year, I predicted many retailers would stagger discounts and promotions throughout Black Friday. Historically, retailers have had a rush of shoppers at the open and then crowds have dwindled as the day went on and doorbuster deals ended. This grew more pronounced last year as retailers opened earlier. This year Walmart implemented this strategy by releasing three circulars – one starting at 8PM, one starting at 10PM, and one starting at 5AM.
In their Black Friday circular, Walmart also noted “Ad Match” were they will match the promotional pricing of other retailers.
Of the retailers I visited, BestBuy and Walmart were the two stores showing the most Black Friday activity in advance of Black Friday. The aisles of Walmart were filled with inventory and the barricades outside were already in place. At BestBuy, the barricades outside were already in place and there was actually already someone waiting in line. I didn’t ask when he arrived, but he was there at least 30 hours before the store was set to open tonight. Inside, tape on the floor foreshadowed the long lines that would form over them literally moments after the stores open.
The BestBuy I visited was recently remodeled to the new store layout. I first saw this layout in the Richmond, MN store a few months ago. While I’m not sure it is true, the new store layout does feel to better take advantage of the shift toward mobile devices like smartphones tablets. While the first products I hit in the middle of the store as I entered was Window 8 computers, I immediately hit a variety of mobile-oriented devices. While one of the key focuses of the new store is the Service component in the middle of the store, I like the increased focus on mobile-oriented devices. In the mobile section of the store – which is to the right of the main door – there appears to an increased mix of mobile-oriented products beyond just the core hub devices of smartphones and tablets. Against the wall are a variety of health-oriented devices – many of which take advantage of smartphones or tablets. The same is true in the surrounding aisles where products like headphones and other mobile device accessories are displayed (think remote control helicopters controlled by your phone). This is really an Android/iOS (and potentially eventually Windows 8 Phone) play in disguise.