Amazon has been having a banner year – some of it at the expense of independent retailers, as our COVID-bound customers move more of their shopping online.  And now our giant competitor is about the roll out its biggest promotion of the year, Prime Days, on October 13 and 14.  Whether this is a threat or opportunity remains to be seen.

Amazon Prime Day started out as a one-day event in July of 2015 to mark the 20th anniversary of the business.  Envisioned as a global shopping event with deals for Prime members that would be greater than those offered on Black Friday, the intention was undoubtedly to create a shopping frenzy during a relatively slow time of year.  By 2019, the event had expanded to 48 hours and was the largest shopping event in Amazon’s history. Top selling items ranged from Amazon devices such as Alexa to organic produce at Whole Foods.

This year’s event was postponed to October, probably because Amazon was overwhelmed with orders (and short of employees) in July due to COVID.  Another reason that these dates were chosen was because Amazon wants to “kick off the autumn sales frenzy weeks early” to protect themselves against potential slow deliveries of some products, according to an online Forbes article.

In an interesting PR twist, “this year Amazon is increasing its commitment to small business selling partners by designing Prime Day to support them with our biggest small business promotion yet. Starting today through October 12, Amazon will offer Prime members a $10 credit to use on Prime Day when members spend $10 on items sold by select small businesses in Amazon’s store.” This is of course only a benefit to those of who sell through Amazon – perhaps even just the 20,000 businesses with Amazon Storefronts. 

If you are not an Amazon selling partner – and most of us aren’t – Prime Days may still offer an opportunity for you to promote your store. Many big box stores follow Amazon’s lead by promoting special offers at the same time that Amazon is rolling out its list of discounts.  While we know we can’t compete with Amazon when it comes to cutting prices, many of us do have specials that we could promote during this time.

But the key takeaway is that this year we give serious consideration to kicking off our own sales frenzy earlier than usual, because with only a few customers in our stores at a time we need to space out holiday shopping.  It is probably a good idea to put out at least some of your Christmas merchandise this month, and to follow Amazon’s lead by offering your “prime” customers some special incentive to start shopping early.  It’s one way to make the most of what would undoubtedly be a challenging holiday season even without competition from this virtual giant.

Happy Retailing, 

Carol “Orange” Schroeder

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