Monday, November 19, 2007

Retailers Getting Head Start On Black Friday

By Amanda Ferrante, Assistant Editor

With Black Friday just days away, retailers are thinking outside the gift box this holiday season, using new methods to shoppers started early. JC Penney is helping shoppers rise and shine by opening their doors for the traditional holiday kickoff at 4 a.m. and offering wake-up calls to consumers on Black Friday.

The wake-up call strategy is just one of the new campaigns tapping into mobile marketing, as Nordstrom and Wal-Mart are offering shoppers who sign up text messages with discounts and special sales.

While Black Friday traditionally kicked off with the arrival of the weekly circular, retailers are also using email marketing to get a head start on the holiday rush. Circuit City sent out an email on Monday with the headline “Thanksgiving Countdown—Get Black Friday Deals Now.” Other retailers like Kohl's are sending e-mail alerts on upcoming sales, offering web visitors to 10% off their next purchase for signing up.

The push to drive business during this key week is a growing imperative as recent research shows an increase in people planning to shop the day after Thanksgiving. A poll from Maritz Research found that 37%of respondents plan to shop on the day Black Friday, vs. 34% last year. While the survey found that the majority of consumers were planning to spend an average of 10% less overall this holiday season, those who plan to shop on Black Friday say they will spend $790 overall on their holiday purchases, compared to $637 for all shoppers combined.

Just like the doorbuster shoppers they hope to attract, retailers got an early start this year with campaigns beginning in mid-October, led by Wal-Mart, which launched its "sneak peak" deals to those who signed up beforehand more than a month before Thanksgiving.

Yet despite the advance notice retailers were giving customers, Black Friday web sites once again leaked the news early with circulars and coupons appearing weeks before the big day. While retailers have publicly battled against these sites, they have been quietly supported by some merchants. Jon Vincent, founder of, says big name retailers began emailing him back in August “to start the line of communication."

Looking beyond Black Friday, cross-channel retailers are also readying for Cyber Monday. According to the Research 2005 eHoliday Mood Study, 77% of online retailers said that their sales had increased substantially on the Monday after Thanksgiving in 2004. This year, NRF’s web site will feature 500 retailers throughout the holiday season.