Shoppers (still) behaving badly

November 15, 2015 by Never Mind the BE

fighting-shoppers-9024878About this time last year, I wrote a post on Black Friday, that bizarre import where – last Friday in November – normally quite sane consumers go quite mad in search of time-limited bargains, often resorting to extreme measures to get their hands on that “once-in-a-lifetime” bargain.

The scenes on TV each year get increasingly depressing, retailers deploying an entire arsenal of choice architecture weapons to play on the heuristics and biases shaping our purchase decisions. This year, the problem appears set to be worse than ever, John Lewis alone predicting that the Black Friday promotion will add a further 20% to last year’s impressive sales, which in themselves were the most successful promotion revenues in the retailer’s 150-year history.

According to an interesting post in the current Marketing Week, however, retailers themselves may now be starting to regret creating this manic phenomenon. The costs of crowd control, inventory management and staff overtime are spiralling, for instance, while electrical retailers in particular witnessed a decline in sales last year during the early part of December – a crucial (literally!) point in the Christmas trading period. With IMG and Experian predicting UK retail sales will exceed £1b this Black Friday, it will be very interesting to see the impact this will have on the festive trading reported during the sobriety of early January!

One thing is certain, I will be kept busy commenting on and answering questions about the day when shoppers “unexpectedly” went mad, happens every year like clockwork.  Have to think of something new to say again! In the meantime, hats off to Jerry Skritzke of apparel retailer REI – he’s got so fed up of the whole Black Friday insanity that he’s decided to close all of the firm’s stores that day and give his staff an additional family holiday – the economics of which, by the way, make far more sense both in terms of reduced operating costs and resulting increases in employee satisfaction and productivity. Nice one, Jerry…!