Here are some Black Friday data points to enlighten (and perhaps annoy) shoppers while they’re waiting in line for stores to open up, wondering whether prices will be cheaper next week, or arguing with a driver in the parking lot after getting into a car accident: Increasingly, it almost seems easier to find things that are listed on sale rather than full price throughout the holiday period. In fact, 44% of shoppers say they will “only buy sale items” over the holidays because they anticipate that merchandise—pretty much all merchandise—will eventually be discounted. More than 20,000 Black Friday deals are expected to be advertised this year, up from around 17,000 for Black Friday 2011. The number of Americans who are likely to hit the stores over Black Friday weekend is down this year … to a mere 147 million consumers. In the buildup to Black Friday weekend of 2011, as many as 152 million Americans were expected to descend on the malls. More than half of American consumers had already started their holiday shopping as of the first week of November. (MORE: 8 Black Friday Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make) Meanwhile, 78% of consumers say they wish stores would not play Christmas music until after Thanksgiving, and 75% say that stores shouldn’t put up Christmas decorations until after Turkey Day. Nearly one-third of American consumers think that Black Friday sales start too early; also, 34% get stressed out by Black Friday shopping because “the thought of that many people in one store is scary.” Some of the memorable (and scary) incidents experienced by Black Friday shoppers in the past include: • Got shut out of a store because the fire marshall arrived. • I almost got run over by an older woman in a motorized wheelchair. • I was pushed into a skid of DVD players and ended up with a concussion. Here’s one more reason to stay home: Progressive Insurance reported that claims over parking lot car accidents increased 36% from Black Friday 2010 to Black Friday 2011.
The reason why door buster deals, coupons, dramatic markdowns, and a short-lived sales are staples of the retail holiday scene is simple: They drive traffic into the stores. So how does a store attract customers when it’s sworn off all of these strategies? Well, you could try giving customers a coupon-like offer and pretend that it’s not a coupon. You could also try offering some freebies meant to win back the core customers you alienated by getting rid of coupons and nonstop sales. This is what JCPenney has been doing as we enter the oh-so-important holiday period, when strong sales are essential for retailers. Yes, the retailer is also slowly rolling out a huge store-within-a-store concept, in which Levi’s, IZOD, and other brands are featuring in “minishops” in the department store. But it’ll take years to see if the concept, the baby of CEO Ron Johnson, a retail superstar known for his work with Target and the Apple Store, can save JCPenney. (MORE: 11 Weirdest Election-Themed Products) In the short term, JCPenney is trying to cope with the fallout over the transformation of its pricing system, which Johnson dubbed “fair and square”—and which has largely resulted in months of dismal sales. Most troubling for JCPenney is the fact that women have been especially turned off by the approach, in which initial prices are lower but coupons and dramatic sales markdowns are basically nonexistent. In a recent poll, it was revealed that in between September 2011 and September 2012, 13% fewer women said that JCPenney was their favorite place to shop for clothing. Of the top 10 apparel retailers, JCPenney was the only one to post a loss in the category—which is tantamount to losing 1.3 million female customers. All of this occurred, of course, while Johnson was attempting to revitalize the company with a major overhaul. Lately, amid periodic announcements that have led to puzzled head-scratching—like that JCPenney would be getting rid of checkout counters—the retailer appears to be trying to make amends to the women from whom it has
B&N has dropped the price of the Nook Simple Touch With GlowLight to $119 to match the Kindle Paperwhite (with “special offers”). No sales figures have come out of either camp, but it makes sense for B&N to head Amazon off at the pass, especially since the Paperwhite is shipping on October 1 and could put a dent in Nook sales.
The new Paperwhite has a glowing, frontlit screen that turns the traditional grey drab of an e-ink device into a bright white page. The Nook with GlowLight looks nearly as good and is also a solid device. At this point it basically comes down to which company you’ve already trusted with your e-library.
The e-reader wars are now about platform popularity. It’s the company that can grab the most readers in the shortest amount of time that wins and this price drop is evidence of the high stakes both companies are facing.
Shoppers are now addicted to discounts, and that retailers are struggling mightily to sell anything at close to full price.