Black Friday Strategies for Small Businesses
Black Friday is quickly approaching and that means big box retailers such as Walmart, Target, and Toys “R” Us are ready to unleash a tsunami of sales, opening their doors, in many cases, before the Thanksgiving leftovers are even put away. With those hefty discounts and pre-dawn hours—not to mention multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to herald this shopping event—how can small businesses compete with their bigger rivals?
The key, say retailing experts—and small businesses alike—is to highlight different strengths, not go head to head with the big guys. “Trying to play the price game on Black Friday is a losing proposition for any small business,” says Jim Blasingame, host of The Small Business Advocate, a nationally syndicated radio program dedicated to small business issues. A better strategy for smaller retailers, he suggests, is to let customers know via emails and Facebook in the weeks leading up to the big day why they can have a better and less stressful shopping experience in your store. “Focus on what you sell and the better customer service you can deliver on Black Friday,” he says. That’s something the big guys can’t offer their customers on a day that’s become a “feeding frenzy,” Blasingame adds.
Indeed, in 2011, sales on Black Friday alone reached a record-breaking $11.4 billion, according to ShopperTrak. And this year, the National Retail Federation is forecasting even better numbers for the entire holiday season, with sales estimated to increase 4.1 percent to $586.1 billion. That’s higher than the 10-year average holiday sales increase of 3.5 percent. So, here are some tips to help your small business share in all that holiday retail cheer:
Do your own thing
Yes, it’s true: there is a significant segment of the population that enjoys getting up in the dark, waiting on line with strangers, and then blasting through the doors of their favorite big retailer at 5 a.m. with all the finesse of an NFL linebacker. Then there are other shoppers who don’t. That’s where your business comes in. Think about what attracts customers to your store in the first place, what keeps them loyal—and then offer that on Black Friday.
Mark Edge, owner of the Soccer Post in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, says he’ll use Black Friday to reinforce his store’s long-standing reputation with customers as the destination shop for all things soccer. “All the local clubs know we have the items they need so there’s no rush about getting here on one particular day,” he says. While he may email a coupon to customers, offering a small discount on certain apparel items, he’s convinced that Black Friday is far more important to the big box retailers than to small businesses. “For us, it marks the beginning of the holiday selling season, not a day where we see a significant spike in sales,” he acknowledges. By focusing on great customer service, a deep selection of soccer gear and apparel, and a knowledgeable sales staff, Edge believes he keeps customers loyal all year—not just for one day.