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How to Make the Most Out of Black Friday

A truncated holiday shopping season has driven many retailers to unleash sales earlier than ever and offer even bigger discounts. But some players have decided to adopt unusual strategies for the biggest sales moment of the year.
Deciem Blackout Friday | Source: Courtesy
By
  • Rachel Strugatz
BoF PROFESSIONAL

NEW YORK, United States – If you're looking to stock up on products from The Ordinary on Black Friday, think again. 

The cult skincare brand’s parent company Deciem is closing all of its e-commerce sites and stores on Black Friday, a radical move given that the day after Thanksgiving is the biggest sales moment of the year for many retailers. 

"Please shop slowly" is the mantra splashed across Deciem's homepage. Instead of the 50 to 70 percent off promotions previously offered on select items on Black Friday, every product on the site is 23 percent off for the entire month of November, excluding the 29th. According to its website, the company "no longer feels comfortable being involved in a single day so heavily centred around hyper-consumerism"  – even if it means forfeiting sales from its bestselling skin care label.

“We see a lot of positives around what the key shopping moment of the year is, but in reality, it ends up with people panic-buying,” said Deciem Chief Executive Nicola Kilner. “The biggest problem in the world is people buying things they don’t need.”

The biggest problem in the world is people buying things they don't need.

According to Adobe Analytics, Black Friday sales are expected to hit $7.5 billion this year, a 21 percent increase from 2018. For most, forgoing traditional sales the day after Thanksgiving can impact fourth quarter results, but Kilner is confident the company’s portfolio of brands will make up for the loss of sales on Black Friday during the rest of November.
Deciem is just one of a handful of companies deviating from the standard Black Friday sales strategies that have dominated the official start of the holiday shopping season in the US. In the past, Patagonia has donated proceeds from Black Friday purchases to worthy causes and REI has waited to process online orders placed on the day after Thanksgiving, encouraging people to spend time with their families instead.
Here are four alternative ways brands and retailers can approach Black Friday: 

Rethink Your Sale Duration

The 2019 holiday shopping season is different for two reasons: it's shorter and had a new, earlier than ever, unofficial kickoff day with "National Cash Back Day" on November 7. As a result, marketers are in a frenzy about the year's truncated holiday shopping season, which at just 26 days is nearly a week less than 2018's 32 days.

"Retailers are clamouring for attention, they're clamouring for sales, every single day counts," said Sara Skirboll, a shopping and trends expert at RetailMeNot. This might not be great for retailers but makes for a "shopper's market" where customers no longer need to wait until the end of the month for the best deals. 

On November 1, eBay kicked off its Black Friday sales, which take place every Friday through to December 13. Besides the extra customer visibility that offering early sales afforded eBay, spreading out deals is easier for retailers to handle logistically than one huge sale on a single day. 

Retailers are clamouring for attention, they're clamouring for sales, every single day counts.

Campaigns for Amazon’s Black Friday sales started appearing online on October 22 and promotions were officially revealed on November 5. The e-tailer launched a week of deals on November 22 that end at midnight on Black Friday.
But for beauty brand Glossier, which steers clear of promotions, a single 20 percent off sale per year is a strategy that appears to be working. Glossier’s 2018 Black Friday sales were more than 17 times its daily average, according to Second Measure, a firm that tracks US consumer spending. All four days of its Black Friday offer last year had sales that were at least six times 2018’s daily average.

Close for Business

Deciem’s decision to cease business on November 29 should help pause the manic shopping mindset induced by an onslaught of holiday sales. But it also serves a more nuanced purpose: skincare is a more considered purchase and should be treated as such. 
Offering only a handful of items at 50 percent off or more may encourage customers to buy a product simply because it’s cheaper – not necessarily because it will address their skin concerns. Kilner doesn’t want someone buying a retinol product just because it’s deeply discounted. 
Keeping a Black Friday strategy synced to a brand’s DNA also helps customers identify retailers they feel are aligned with their own values. Deciem’s Black Friday approach fits with the company’s anti-excess ethos — in both consumption and packaging. “You buy it because you know the ingredients are great; you’re not buying into the other BS — you’re buying it because it works,” Lucie Greene, founder of futures and research firm Light Years, said.
In the UK, Allbirds is taking a stand against impulse and single use purchases by emptying all inventory from its London flagship on Black Friday. Instead of selling shoes made from sustainably sourced materials, the space will host workshops and “tactile experiences” for the day.

Sell Everything at Cost

Retailers trying to hit fourth-quarter revenue targets are under pressure to join in the markdown event of the season, but some are forgoing Black Friday profits altogether, especially if it helps to attract new customers or re-engage existing ones.
Archibald London founder Rohan Dhir isn’t putting apparel and accessories on sale this Black Friday. Instead, he explained, everything on the site on November 29 — including knitwear, eyewear and shoes — will be sold at cost as part of its Archibald, Naked initiative.

We need something drastic, we need to do something different.

“We thought: we need something drastic, we need to do something different instead of playing this game of acquiring customers through digital marketing,” said Dhir.

Put Money Into In-Store Experiences

A good in-store experience can offset a sale, or lack thereof. Brands and retailers don’t even have to mark down if they’re giving customers a reason to come into their physical locations, said Vic Drabicky, founder and chief executive of January Digital.

Offering a complimentary custom service — such as engraving or monogramming items — could be more attractive than a discount because it makes these items one-of-a-kind. In its NorthPark store in Dallas on November 30, Neiman Marcus will have an Hermès personalisation event where customers can have their fragrance bottles engraved and a card written by a calligrapher. 

“They’re giving you a reason to come to the store and a reason to shop and you’re getting benefits without the discount,” Drabicky said.

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