The busiest shopping day of the year is traditionally said to be the day after Thanksgiving, dubbed Black Friday in honor of stores “getting in the black” and making a profit starting that day. Those of us who love the origin of words and phrases will be interested to know that Black Friday actually started out as a reference to the day the U.S. gold market crashed in 1869.  But today it has a more positive connotation, at least to bargain shoppers.

Bargain shopping is in fact what Black Friday is all about, as is witnessed by the big box store shopping frenzy that now sometimes even starts the evening of Thanksgiving.  It is tempting for independent retailers to sit out the fray and wait until the next day for the more civilized and feel-good Small Business Saturday — but it’s not a bad idea to make the most of every opportunity to attract customers.

They key to Black Friday success is coming up with some bargains that are time-limited to that day, giving customers a sense of urgency.  This is a great opportunity to bring in sale merchandise that you can sell at full price, making the same markup that you normally do.  I’m sure that with the exception of a few “loss leaders” that are brought in to attract attention, the big stores are doing just this.  

We’ve already gotten several emails from our suppliers offering sale merchandise for Black Friday, and we are counting on our sales reps to bring other closeouts and discounts to our attention.  Often the bargain prices on this merchandise can be continued until the stock is gone, which makes it a good investment even if we don’t get much traffic on BF itself.  Two caveats, though: make sure that the goods are a logical fit with your other inventory, and that the minimum quantity reflects an amount you feel confident you can sell.

Should you offer a loss leader?  By definition, this is a product sold at below wholesale cost, or at least at a steep discount, in order to attract attention.  This may be an effective advertising ploy if it fits with your store image, however there is the danger of cheapening your brand (or going against MAP pricing policies) if you decide to do this. It might be better to emphasize your pleasurable shopping experience, and to offer a free gift or discount as an incentive to your loyal customers to come in on Black Friday to see what special bargains you have in store.  

Happy Retailing,

Carol “Orange” Schroeder 

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