Beyond Black Friday



While the holiday selling season is far from over, some folks are already declaring this year’s winners and losers in the retail world.

Now that Black Friday has come and gone, retailers and industry prognosticators are revising their fourth-quarter sales forecasts based on how much consumers shelled out during the post-Thanksgiving shopping frenzy. For many, this unofficial opening of the holiday selling season has become an important indicator of what’s in store for retailers for the rest of the season. 

But retailers—particularly pet specialty retailers—should be careful not to rush to judgment based on their stores’ performance out of the gate. 

A great or poor start for holiday sales does not necessarily dictate how the entire season will go. For example, last year, retail sales during Black Friday weekend were significantly below expectations and, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF), more than 10 percent lower than the year before. However, at the end of the season, the retail sector found itself with a healthy—if not gaudy—four percent growth, says the NRF.

Winning the Black Friday battle should not be a goal in pet stores’ holiday sales strategy anyway. The deep discounting that is a cornerstone of this annual event is antithetical to what successful pet specialty retailers are all about. Instead, retailers should be focused on consistently engaging consumers throughout the holidays with a merchandising strategy that emphasizes the experience that can be found within the store, rather than promoting special deals to draw more foot traffic. 

If done well, this approach will extend the amount of time shoppers spend in the store, leading to more sales. This phenomenon was perfectly encapsulated in a recent article from The Wall Street Journal, which reported on how a variety of specialty retailers are utilizing elements such as selfie stations, product-sampling centers and specialized services to keep consumers in their stores longer. According to the article, these tactics have resulted in sales increases of up to 20 to 40 percent in some cases.

Luckily, this is no secret to many of the successful players in the independent pet specialty channel. A growing number of single-store operators and chains alike are seeing the value of delivering a unique shopping experience that keeps consumers in the aisles longer—whether it’s by offering reliable pet care advice, complementary services, fun events, product sampling centers or even pet-centric cafés. Elements like these not only drive up the average register ring in pet stores, they enhance a retailer’s reputation and keep shoppers coming back again and again—not just during the holiday season, but throughout the year. 

No Black Friday sale is going to deliver that kind of result, no matter how good the doorbuster deals.


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