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Feeding Frenzy

November 21, 2011

You can't blame the retailers. Business remains tough, though when you look at monthly retail sales they are not nearly as bad as other parts of the overall economy. One could even make the argument that stores are holding up better than most other segments of American business. Certainly, they are nowhere near as bad as housing or other industries.

And you can'tblame the consumers. They are just trying to stretch their dollars as far as they humanely - or inhumanely, in some cases - can go. They have been conditioned like Pavlov's shoppers to respond to all of this promotional noise and you can actually see them start to salivate and twitch when you show them giant sale signs. Who cares if you already have four Blu-Ray DVD players if the devices are only $49.99 to the first 100 people through the door?

So, these Black Friday doorbusters actually do work ... at least in the short term. How many sales are made that day that would have been made eventually over the next 30 days - and perhaps at better margins - is anyone's guess. So too is any hard information - at least any hard information that anyone wants to share - on whether that shopper sticks around to buy more higher-margin goods once they've stocked up on the cheap stuff.

But creating an image that you've got the best deals in town - it's the single best vehicle there is for any retailer all year long. There's no disputing that.

But ultimately - and not before too long - Black Friday is destined to become an anachronism, relegated to the retailing junk pile. Eventually shoppers will find another way to get these great bargains without all of the drama of midnight sales, cold waits on long lines and hand-to-hand combat on limited inventory goods and traditional retailers will indeed be sitting ducks. It's happening already.

It's called the Internet. Eventually we'll look back on Black Friday as yet another cute, antiquated experience as shoppers increasingly buy online for these kinds of purchases.

So enjoy the feeding frenzy while it's still here. Pretty soon it's going to be just another Thanksgiving leftover.