Thanksgiving is almost here, and Black Friday will follow just a day later. If you’re going to be part of the buying rush, you’d do well to decide on what you need right now. If you’re a retailer doing some last minute prep, do you have all your bases covered?

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day and it marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday as a concept goes well back into the 1930s. The fourth Friday of November has always marked the beginning of Christmas sale season. Happening nearly a month before Christmas, Black Friday sales both in retail stores and online make for impeccable timing. Retail stores get a chance to process their stocks and clear their inventory for new stock to come in. Online stores benefit by having sufficient time to pack and ship all of these products right in time for Christmas eve.

In the earliest part of this millennium, several news sources reported that Black Friday is the biggest sales day in terms of revenue for the entire year!

However, this trend has begun to taper off beginning 2014, as many retailers are choosing to spread the deals out over several weeks as opposed to just one day. However, the fervor around this day still remains and you, the retailer, can expect to see some rush this year too.

How Did Black Friday Originate, And Why Is It Called That?

The story of Black Friday is one so purely mundane, you’d find it surprising that it should become the phenomenon that it is. The day after Thanksgiving has historically been the day when happy shoppers and their families descend on stores to make purchases ranging from apparel and accessories to home appliances. Since retailers can sell so much in one day, this is the day when their cash flow can enter the ‘black zone’. Losses being represented in red and profits in black, this would be the day when retailers finally see profits.

What Is Black Friday

There’s also another theory about the term originating in 1950s Philadelphia, when a horde of people entered the city all at once to watch a football game the day after Thanksgiving. The unexpected influx meant all city cops had to be pulled back into duty to control the chaos that ensued. Perhaps one aspect of this story that is ironically relevant even today is that on that day in Philly, people made away with a lot of goods and merchandise in stores in the ensuing bedlam. We do just that even today, but we pay for what we pick up.

Sales Trends For Black Friday

Google is the God of all trends. The Think With Google team has come up with some straightforward and some fairly surprising trends for this year’s holiday shopping.

Black friday 2016 trends

  1. About 50% of all studied shoppers reported that they’d be willing and open to try new retailers. This is especially true with online stores, as the shoppers felt that the internet is a great place to explore brands they didn’t know about. New online retailers, are you listening?
  2. Catalogs are still relevant, but they’re taking on a digital avatar. Think email catalogs, or even create inspiration boards on Pinterest. Consider establishing an Instagram presence.
  3. About 80% of people who search for a physical store nearby end up visiting that store within 24 hours, and about 30% of these people come out having made a purchase. This means that even if you’re a physical store, you need to up your social media game.

If you’re a seasoned retailer, you already have a fair idea of what products sell well during the holidays. If this is your first Black Friday sale, do keep in mind that most savvy shoppers prefer quality over price. Another way to think about it is that sellers take it for granted that products will be discounted during this time; the seller who provides a discounted product of better quality will most likely close the deal.

The seller who provides a discounted product of better quality will most likely close the deal.

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Preparing Your Physical Store For Black Friday

If you have a physical store across one or more locations, here’s how to prepare the store for Black Friday:

  1. If you haven’t already done this, update your website to reflect the upcoming sale and advertise a few hot deals.
  2. Train your retail staff to have adequate knowledge of all products on sale. Ask them to bring in a dollop of extra patience on the big day.
  3. Keep your sales terms simple. If you say ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ for the apparel category, don’t also add in ‘get 50% off on all t-shirts’. Does this mean they get to buy two t-shirts at the price of one and also get a third free?
  4. It would also help to ensure all the right product labels are in place so customers aren’t confused about the discounted prices.
  1. Give utmost priority to security. When goods are scarce and lucrative, people bring their primal instincts to the table. For the unwary retailer, this can mean untoward incidents in store. Amp up your security and get cameras if you must.
  2. Space the products out sufficiently so there’s enough moving space for people.
  3. For people waiting in line, you can consider handing out small catalogs with what products they can expect to find inside.
  4. Provide additional registers so checkout is faster. Have sturdy line separators- people waiting in line can get grumpy when someone jumps the line, more so if they’ve been waiting for long.
  5. Advertise everywhere! From your store window to the local square, use every advertising opportunity you find.
  6. Prepare for emergencies and crises. The air conditioning may go out. The first lot of people may strew your things all over the floor. Prepare for them so you’re not caught by surprise.

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Preparing Your Online Store For Black Friday

If you have an online store, there are several things you can do to prepare for a Black Friday sale:

  1. Start sending out email catalogs to your subscribers if you haven’t already. If you have, a nice reminder could go a long way.
  2. Embellish your website with the right banners without being too overwhelming. Always be sure to mention free shipping, easy returns and major discounts in big, bold letters.
  3. If you also have a physical presence, offer your customers incentives for shopping online- no queues, in-store pick up at a date of convenience and guaranteed delivery are a few thing you can offer them.
  4. Always include an option to buy a gift card. If an online shopper likes your products, there’s no better time than sale season to entice them to use you for gifting.
  1. Promote your Black Friday deals on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
  2. Talk to your website developer about how to prevent the site from crashing on the big day. Request extra bandwidth if need be.
  3. Revamp your returns and replacement policy to reflect sales goods.
  4. Make promises on delivery timelines only if you’re absolutely sure of meeting them.
  5. Make sure your customer service team is up to speed. They need to be ready to answer queries across platforms in a few minutes, preferably before the customer leaves your website.

Black Friday Is Going Global!

As a concept, Black Friday may only be a sale day in the United States. However, with the advent of online retail and international shipping, shoppers from all over the world will be looking for deals. If you ship internationally or sell on marketplaces that do, you’re in luck! Consider stocking up a tad bit more.

Also, remember to track international orders this year – the product categories and price windows. This will give you a great reference point for next year as well.

How prepared are you to handle Black Friday? What unique ideas are you using to make this day work for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Armed with a degree and a pen, loves to tell stories. When not telling stories, she also works. Hard to decide which one she likes more.