Black Friday has come and gone, but that’s just the beginning of what has become a weeks-long “holiday shopping season” that actually begins the week before the Thanksgiving Holiday and runs right through Christmas Eve.
It’s no secret that retailers depend on Q4 to get “back in the black” in their ledgers for the year. They need those strong holiday sales, and they invest heavily to earn your business. And, with the internet siphoning off more and more sales each year, brick and mortar stores are getting creative, pulling out all the stops to get people through the doors and to the registers.
Walmart, for example, is throwing parties at locations across the country. At last count, more than 20,000 customer parties to entice people into the stores. Sears, which is struggling just to survive in the shifting retail environment, had “everything on sale” through the entire month of November.
Macy’s in NYC has an entire Samsung marketplace inside its flagship location as well as VR headsets for furniture shoppers. JCPenney handed out coupons worth hundreds to Black Friday shoppers … and everyone has been inundating their customers with pre-holiday sale emails and ads on social media.
In some cases, they are promoting online sales, but most of the gimmicks and incentives are meant to drive people to the stores. It’s a desperate push to keep from reaching a retail tipping point. Some have a name for this: “The Amazon Effect.”
Back when the online juggernaut was launched many people said it wouldn’t last. It was just buying books on the web, and who does that? These days, pretty much everyone. Amazon invested heavily in what consumers really want: selection, convenience, and good prices. Because Amazon consistently delivers on all these metrics, customers flocked to the site … and now Amazon sells pretty much everything.
In some cases, brick and mortar retailers were far too slow to respond to the changing tide. They ignored it when the percentage of sales was in the single digits, and some even scoffed when online sales hit the teens. Now, though, online sales are still surging, and it’s already put a big dent in store sales. Amazon is a proven Big Box killer, and the site just keeps growing.
That has forced traditional B&M retailers to try to compete with Amazon in its own game. Walmart, Target, BestBuy, and others are pushing online sales hard this holiday season. Because they don’t quite have delivery down as well as Amazon, they are trying to use in-store pickup as a way to get buyers into the locations … in the hopes that they remember everything there is to offer there. Kind of the reverse of “out of sight, out of mind.” More of a “here it is, you know you want it.”
There’s also the fact that delivery is expensive, especially for lower-priced or very fragile items. So, the retailers are promoting in-store pickup as both convenient and a cost savings. Will it be enough to slow the march of Amazon and other online retailers? We’ll know by New Year’s.