A little while back I confessed my general apathy about Black Friday. It could have something to do with my day job -- finding awesome tech deals all year round -- but I just can't work up much excitement about the day. And many readers agreed: most of the day's bargains aren't worth standing in long lines in cold weather and being surrounded by pushy shoppers.
But then I got to thinking. (I hate when that happens.) How could stores recapture some of that old Black magic? What would it take for me to give a damn about this "shopper's holiday" once again? Is that even possible?
Eventually I settled on three steps stores could take to make Black Friday feel special again. It's pretty unlikely any of them will happen, but a man can dream, can't he?
1. Stop the year-round Black Friday sales.
November is Black Friday Month! It's Black Friday Deals Week! Get our Black Friday special two days early! It's Black Friday in July!
I'm not making up any of those sales pitches. In the weeks and even months leading up to BF, stores go crazy-overboard with their leaked ads, teasers, promotions, and sales. Net result: by the time the actual day rolls around, you're so sick of the onslaught of advertising, you just want it to be over. You're not excited about Black Friday; you're annoyed by it.
In other words, if every day is Black Friday, what's so special about Black Friday? Enough with the 365-day BF madness.
2. Keep the deals under wraps until Thanksgiving.
Not too many years ago, there was little or no advance notice about stores' Black Friday deals. You'd find out about them by flipping through the ads in the Thanksgiving Thursday paper. And you know what? It was fun! It felt like discovering a big secret, and it gave you a reason to get excited about that day you had off from school or work.
Now, the leaked ads start flowing right after Halloween. Number of surprises to be found in the Thursday paper: zero. Excitement level: meh.
Next year, let's see some crafty store not leak its Black Friday ad. Tell the world you're "keeping the deals under wraps until Thanksgiving," and watch while shoppers go crazy with anticipation. You know the old saying: some things are better left to the imagination. Once you do finally reveal the goods, it won't matter if the deals are just average; everyone will want in because people can't resist a secret.
I wonder if any retailer has the guts to actually do this. I doubt it, but I suspect the payoff would be huge.
3. Make the deals truly special.
This is a tough one for stores, many of which already operate on razor-thin margins. And as I noted last week, there are indeed some truly spectacular Black Friday deals to be had.
But here's where I think there's room for improvement: most of the dirt-cheap deals on things like TVs, Blu-ray players, and laptops are for off-brand or low-end products. Those are all well and good, but plenty of people prefer higher-end, name-brand equipment. How about a hefty discount on, say, a Sharp Elite TV or a MacBook Pro? Let's see some deals on premium goods, not just clearance stuff that's usually priced pretty low to begin with.
And, hey, whatever happened to contests? I'd be a lot more likely to brave a crowded store if I stood to win, say, an iPad Mini or a Droid Razr Maxx. Retailers have focused so heavily on the "doorbuster" concept that they've forgotten the simplest, most effective marketing tools.
Those are my thoughts on the subject. Now let's hear yours. What would it take for you to fall in love with Black Friday all over again? (Now there's a movie tagline if ever I heard one.)