Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black Friday, the Failure

We’ve had pretty good luck running Black Friday events in the past, opening at 5 or 6 in the morning with a table of specials and a discount schedule that gets smaller as the morning wears on. We also serve breakfast: toasted bagels with cream cheese and hot apple cider from a local orchard. Typically, we don’t have huge crowds but have three to six people browsing and spending money at any given time during the event. Sales usually run about 25 to 50 percent above a typical Friday. This time, we tried something different which failed quite thoroughly and will serve as a valuable object lesson for next year’s planning.

A couple of times a year (the store anniversary and Halloween) we host a party for our customers, the focal point of which is the distribution of over a thousand dollars worth of prizes through drawings. Customers get tickets through doing various things such as purchases, bringing in cans of food, coming in costume, etc and the drawings pull in a large number of excited people, especially since they have to be present to win (we don’t want to keep track of who won what) and are accompanied by significantly higher than normal sales. Based on this, for Black Friday, we decided to do another drawing and tie ticket distribution to time of day and amount purchased, along with other ways to earn tickets. As I said, based on past experience and customer enthusiasm and chatter about the event, I thought this was a great idea, especially since we had hot cider and bagels. Boy, was I wrong.

The day certainly started well. I arrived a bit before 6, got the bagels and cider ready and welcomed the first customers at a few minutes after 6. That should have been my first clue. In past years, we have had people lined up outside the door when we opened. The first customer spent a goodly amount and then, I got what should have been my second clue, when he passed on receiving any drawing tickets, saying he wouldn’t be there for the drawing. Second customer bought a pack of Magic 2012 and a few common cards and left. Then nothing but the sound of crickets for three more hours. The only person to set foot through the door until regular opening time at 10 a.m. was a guy who stops in to pick up a copy of the free student newspaper and he just complained that the students hadn’t put one out on a day when the students had all left for the holiday.

Does this sour me on the idea of running Black Friday events? Of course not. This was an experiment that failed. From what I have heard, other stores did incredibly well. Albany, New York’s Zombie Planet posted on their Facebook page that Black Friday broke sales records and St. Louis’s Star Clipper also posted about huge crowds.

Lesson learned. Customers will come out for discounts, premiums and specials, not for hot cider and extra drawing entries. Planning for next year began today.