3Qs: On ‘Black Friday,’ will retailers see green?

With Thanksgiving set for tomorrow, ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ are just around the corner. Given the current economic uncertainty, will consumers still turn out in droves to take advantage of the holiday sales and one-day deals? We asked Fleura Bardhi, associate professor of marketing in the College of Business Administration, to examine how consumers and retailers will approach Black Friday shopping and promotions this year.

Has Black Friday successfully helped retailers garner early holiday profits?

Yes. This is the day where retailers make a profit — move from the red to the black — hence the name ‘Black’ Friday. In fact, American consumers collectively spend more than 10 billion dollars on this day.

Black Friday has become an annual family shopping ritual for many, and as a result, it has proven to be an opportune time for retailers to generate interest in their brands and offerings as well as build and maintain relationships with shoppers.

Do you think consumers will be as likely this year to participate in Black Friday and/or Cyber Monday?

We should expect that consumers would be even more motivated to participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday this year. These days are all about finding savings and great deals, which is probably more important now during economic crisis.

Many retailers began advertising their holiday deals early and are providing consumers with tools — like websites listing all the sales — to help them organize and plan their targeted shopping trips. As I mentioned earlier, Black Friday has become a social shopping ritual for the consumer to bond and compete with others, which makes it a ‘can’t miss’ event for some people, no matter what the state of the economy.

Cyber Monday is well established, and I expect it to be successful this year, too, as it appeals to consumers who prefer to avoid the Black Friday crowds.

Will retailers promote as aggressively this year as they have in the past? What specific products and deals should consumers look for?

Retailers are becoming aware of the financial challenges of the middle class and will target them aggressively in the hopes that one-day sales and the ritual of Black Friday will help bring that consumer back. Interestingly, the luxury retailers — like Bloomingdales, for example — have been doing really well this year, so they probably won’t be as aggressive.

Consumers typically buy holiday gifts as well as durables or electronics like tablet computers and televisions during Black Friday — items they can save a lot on. So, the popularity of certain products will depend on consumer interest or what retailers discount more.