Archive for the 'Promotional strategies' Category

Praise for Target’s holiday TV campaign

RetailWire ran a weekly series of face-offs comparing holiday TV spots for various retailers. The “finalists” included everybody from PetSmart to Radio Shack. In my view, Target’s campaign came up the winner this year:

There were several effective ads among the weekly winners, but I still vote for the Target commercial as the overall champ. This spot turned out to be the kickoff of a well-sustained, consistently themed campaign that ran through Christmas. The focus on category dominance in toys never got lost in the creative execution, while the ads struck a nice balance between emotion and “attitude.” (See the followup commercial with the “naughty boy” getting a lump of coal in the form of an antique cell phone.) Well done, Target, and consistent with the brand position you are trying hard to recapture.

Thanksgiving 2014: A post-mortem

I posted the following at RetailWire on the Monday after Thanksgiving. The “punch line” is that Cyber Monday sales were soft, too. Despite a lot of positive tailwinds, this holiday may be another squeaker:

It can’t come as a surprise that sales on Friday itself fell in brick-and-mortar stores, although the size of the decrease was bigger than I expected. Every year that sales are pulled forward by earlier openings — first from 6am to 4am to midnight on Friday and now to 6pm or earlier on Thursday — takes the sense of urgency out of Friday morning. The entire four-day weekend has to be considered disappointing.

This year’s decline was more pronounced than usual because of the rapid shift to e-commerce and mobile commerce (not reported in the overall weekend numbers) and the probability that some sales shifted to the early part of November this year. As the consumer becomes more empowered each year by the information at her fingertips, she is also less likely to believe that Black Friday pricing is really the lowest of the holiday season.

Add it all up, and it probably made for a more pleasant, and less crowded, shopping experience on Friday. But the sheer size of the numbers will leave retailers sweating it out — as usual — for the next couple of weeks.

And still more on “new Black Friday”

Again — in hindsight — the effort to spread out Thanksgiving shopping from a one-day event to weeklong has not paid off in incremental sales. Here’s a RetailWire comment that I posted about a week before Thanksgiving:

“New Black Friday” is simply a marketing handle meant to acknowledge the new reality of shopping patterns from Thanksgiving morning through Cyber Monday. It’s hard to say whether the idea is likely to drive additional sales, but it should help address the operational challenges of early-morning doorbusters even at the cost of some sense of urgency. Most importantly, it is an omnichannel-friendly approach to a key shopping weekend that has evolved dramatically over the past decade.

More on “Black Thursday”

I published the following comment on RetailWire a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. In hindsight, it’s apparent that early openings only cannibalize Friday sales. (More on a later post.) My point of view:

The relevance of earlier (and earlier) openings will fade as more stores provide ways for shoppers to “buy online, pick up in store” in the future. (Not to mention, the continued growth of e-commerce and m-commerce to begin with.) But, for now, the stores racing to beat the clock are just gearing up their BOPIS efforts. As long as there is peer pressure to open earlier and earlier, we will inevitably see stores open all day on Thanksgiving in the near future.

The stores choosing to stay closed on Thanksgiving Day are making a more vocal effort this year to align their decision with their brand. Costco has always led the way, since they also close on several Federal holidays throughout the year, but it’s significant that stores across the retail spectrum — from Dillards and Nordstrom to TJX to big-box stores — are keeping them company.

Thanksgiving hours: Stores continue to push the envelope

Just like the last post (about the NRF), there seems to be annual chatter about whether stores are opening too early for Black Friday weekend. (And “Friday” is clearly a misnomer.) In a few short years the commonplace opening time has gone from 5am to 3am to midnight to 8pm (last year) to 6pm (this year), if Macy’s internal announcement is any guide. Most of my fellow RetailWire panelists agree with me on this one:

Macy’s crocodile tears about this decision (it wasn’t easy, competitive pressures, and so on) get more disingenuous every year. Let’s be frank: Macy’s is by far the largest department store retailer in the country and one of the biggest general merchandise stores of any kind. So there is no point in being defensive about a decision to open earlier and earlier every year just because “the other guys made us do it.” Macy’s has the ability to set the tone for the industry — and to leverage its omnichannel initiatives — instead of just being a “follower.”

As I noted last year — when 8pm openings became more common — it is inevitable that many retailers will not close for Thanksgiving at all, and that day is not too far away. It’s smart brand positioning (and good employee relations) for stores like Nordstrom to keep away from the whole idea of opening on Thanksgiving Day.

NRF: Blue skies ahead for holiday 2014?

This is probably not the first time that a RetailWire discussion on the topic of the National Retail Federation has shown up on this blog. The NRF has a habit of being optimistic, not matter what the headwinds or external circumstances. Here’s my viewpoint:

It’s as predictable as tomorrow’s sunrise that the NRF will issue an optimistic forecast for the holiday season. They are correct about some tailwinds (improving employment, lower gas prices), and consumer sentiment measures appear to be on the uptick, but there is no consistent trend yet. The economy needs to “raise all boats” before we can expect this kind of result.

As long as sales of electronics (other than the new iPhone) and apparel continue to be soft, it’s hard to see where the 4% increase is coming from. But there will be some clear winners: Stores like Costco with a strong existing trend, stores like Target with easier comps, companies who lost traffic last year due to weather, and retailers who execute their “omnichannel” logistics better than last year’s fiasco.

Target Canada: The low-price leader?

While Target continues to work on improvements to its results in Canada, it was interesting to read about a market-basket analysis showing sharper pricing vs. Walmart than most people might realize. Here’s a recent comment from RetailWire on the subject:

Short-term, it’s an important tactic for Target to advertise its price advantage vs. Walmart, especially when using the REDCard. But this works only as long as Walmart chooses not to respond. History suggests that Walmart will not sit still for very long being beaten on price by somebody else.

Long-term, Target has a branding story to tell that helps differentiate itself from Walmart. It has the same challenge in the U.S. right now, and the new CEO recognizes that less focus on food and consumables will shift the spotlight toward Target’s core strengths. But before any of these steps can be put in place — short-term or long-term — the execution of in-stock rates must continue to improve.


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