I can understand why Black Friday is viewed by many with disdain.
Little else symbolizes our blatant lust for acquisition. Retailers seeking an early jump on their competition trample on our venerable Thanksgiving holiday. We cringe at stories of people who drive hundreds of miles or stand in line overnight to beat the rush for door-busting deals.
Even The Wall Street Journal, the bastion of pro-business sentiment, described Black Friday as a worldwide pandemic. “Discount fever spreads as Black Friday goes global,” was last Saturday’s front page headline.
On that same day, The New York Times’ business section admonished its readers to “Ask yourself how much is enough.”
OK. That’s a fair question. But it’s a little surprising coming from business journalists.
Because from a business perspective, it’s not the deep discounts that make Black Friday noteworthy. It’s the deep business strategy, the careful, meticulous research, planning and execution that make Black Friday such an important lesson for all businesspeople.
Black Friday is an elegant example of Darwinism at work right before our eyes. “It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent,” concluded Charles Darwin, “But the ones most responsive to change.”
And it’s the genius of retailers’ response to change that comes to an annual crescendo on Black Friday.
Think about it. Retail success is dependent on every trade wind that blows: the results of a divisive presidential election that few predicted, uncertainty over health insurance, income taxes, or the impact of a tide of trade protectionism.
There’s also the ever-growing propensity for people to shop online, which has long been the prognosticator of doom for bricks and mortar stores.
Retailers have adapted by changing the retail promotion from one day to five days, beginning now on Thanksgiving and continuing through Cyber Monday.
They’ve also adapted by evolving their ability to anticipate customer behavior.
Retailers track everything. They have a trove of sales and inventory data down to the individual store level by year, by month, by day and even by hour. Through brilliant data analysis and coordinated execution, they’re able to adjust their merchandise and keep their customers engaged, all while fending off competition and coping with the changing whims of fickle customers.
Retailers’ genius at this assumed near mythical proportions during my one Black Friday shopping excursion.
I needed a special kind of retail therapy. All the anger in the news was dragging me down, and I was still bloated from too much smoked turkey.
I needed to do manual labor, to get my hands dirty.
So I decided to brave the crowds to go in search of fresh potting soil for this year’s homegrown tomato crop.
As expected, Home Depot was packed. I parked and steeled myself for the chaos awaiting me inside.
But actually, things were quite under control. I had never seen so many sales assistants in the store, who were happy and upbeat in their Santa’s elves hats.
It was busy, but calm. And I couldn’t resist treating myself to a slow stroll down the power tool aisle, my favorite.
From there, I headed to the garden center and couldn’t believe what I saw. There, at the end of an aisle of wheelbarrows, rakes and shovels, was a gorgeous display of dirt. Big beautiful bags of Miracle-Gro Garden Soil for Flowers and Vegetables, arranged with the same careful thought as the DeWalt cordless combo kit I had lusted over.
Exactly what I had come for was on sale for only $7.97 per 2-cubic-foot bag — the limit of what I could physically lift into my cart.
Thank you, Home Depot. You read my mind.
Adam Snitzer is a revenue strategy expert and president of Peak Revenue Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in helping companies attract more customers. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the company’s website at PeakRevenuePerformance.com.