Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Why does every Broadway tune have to end with a Ta-Da Crescendo? Without the quiet build, there is no crowning glory, no moment to celebrate. It’s like a constant climax—unsustainable. Why is everyone screaming in all caps?
Let’s take a look at Black Friday. Originally, an insider term, Black Friday as everyone now seems to know, marked the day when most retailers’ sales began to turn a profit or that the company turned to profitability. Very little was on sale, if anything. The word sale was banned until after Christmas when Christmas items were discounted, then it ushered in the New Year with the Annual January White Sale.
As more and more retailers sought to increase short-term profits—when the expertise of merchants was traded in for the bean-counting skills of real estate magnates—merchandising as an art, customer cultivation as a duty, and customer service as a social courtesy were no longer priorities. Sales took the front row while customer development—and loyalty—took a back seat. Now we have a nation of consumers who look only for discounts. We have reaped dollars while creating fickle “customers.” What a huge price we have paid.
True, a few sales events shine through—the Nordstrom’s Twice Yearly Sale comes to mind. But Nordstrom’s—like Nieman’s and Saks and Bloomies—has never really let its eyes stray far from the customer.
Which brings us back to Black Friday. We retailers continue pick at the shell of the golden goose. Not only have we eaten away profits through unbridled sales; now we’re attacking the sales themselves. Says Matthew Shay, chief executive of the National Retail Federation, Black Friday is “certainly not dead, but it’s starting to spread out.” (See the New York Times article, "Early Push For Sales Undercuts Black Friday.").
The sales may be spreading to other vehicles, but the impact is getting lost. It’s all sales all the time. Are we attracting the customers we really want? Or do we just want to have a higher ranking on the quarterly sales scoreboard?