On REI’s homepage, visitors are greeted with a hashtag, #OptOutside, and a thoughtful pondering for the holiday season:
“Imagine if everyone felt welcome outside.”
Click the call to action to “Opt outside with us” and you hit a landing page that describes the history of REI’s nonprofit efforts, why they do it, and encouragement to donate instead of shop. This year, as they have over the last 7-years, REI won’t be participating in Black Friday.
To encourage their employees, as well as potential shoppers, to get outside and enjoy the outdoors. This holiday tradition for the company was maintained last year even in the midst of unprecedented difficulties experienced by retailers everywhere due to COVID-19. An event that forced many to rethink not just how they sell products, but how they engage and support their customers.
Closing during the holidays—An emerging trend?
It appears that the decisions by many retailers to close their physical stores on Thanksgiving, not only showcased positive results in 2020 but is possibly becoming a consistent trend. Big-box stores such as Target, Walmart, Best Buy, and several others are committing to remain closed during the holiday, while several other grocery retailers are heavily limiting their hours.
Yes, many of the stores listed here have invested heavily in their eCommerce platforms, but the fact remains that they are still committing to being closed.
Staying true to your core business values
Black Friday this year is likely to be very similar to 2020. There won’t be as much in-person scrambling and struggling to get discounts. And more and more consumers will be turning to online shopping. According to Digital Commerce 360, they expect spending to grow only 6%, which is a dramatic drop from the 20% increase in 2020. However, that was to be expected due to how dramatically unique the effects of COVID were for consumer spending and business reactions.
The good news is that this remains a positive trend that can continue to help you make up lost sales. But at the same time, that doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your core business values to do it.
If you’ve forgone being open on Black Friday in the past, you should consider doing so again. In a year still filled with uncertainty and challenges, this is just a small way of showing that you care about your community, customers’, and employees’ wellbeing. And that even when facing financial adversity, they can expect you to hold firm.
Best Black Friday alternatives for 2021
All that being said, that doesn’t mean you can’t still develop a strategy to improve your sales during the holiday season. As we said before, this is going to be a very different Black Friday. Meaning that there are now very different opportunities to drive sales and brand awareness that don’t require you to be open on Thanksgiving. Here are the top Black Friday alternatives for 2021.
1. Prepare for Small Business Saturday
Initially conceived by American Express, Small Business Saturday is to small businesses what Black Friday is to big-box chains — a chance to offer discounts for holiday shoppers. It’s a day that was officially acknowledged by Congress in 2015 which further embedded it as an official part of the holiday shopping season.
Running exclusive sales and promotions on the day after Black Friday is possibly the easiest way to still take advantage of all the buzz the day provides. It also gives you the opportunity to avoid competing directly with big-box retailers. All while still closing up shop over the holiday.
2. Focus on Cyber Monday
Black Friday typically gets all the attention, but in reality, Cyber Monday is technically the biggest shopping day of the year. This is due to the focus on online sales over in-person, as well as those that opted out of Black Friday starting to shop. Plus, Cyber Monday typically stretches further into the week meaning you’re not limited to just one day of sales.
So, you have a potentially larger audience of shoppers and a larger window to run your promotions. Seems like a win-win right?
Well, keep in mind that plenty of other businesses are aware of Cyber Monday being the better sales day. So, while the shopping pool is bigger, you can expect far more competition. If only there was a way to avoid this…
3. Turn Black Friday/Cyber Monday into a month-long holiday sale
While Adobe projects overall sales to increase this year, they also expect these typically week-long promotional days to turn into month-long sales. Again, this is due to more people shopping online and the shifting lockdown criteria for physical storefronts. And it can help you avoid having to spend big bucks on digital ads to compete the week after Thanksgiving.
There’s not as much pressure this year to squeeze out sales within such a short period of time. Really, there’s more of a benefit shifting sales items, promotions, and pricing throughout the season to see what resonates best with your customers. That way, you can extend any deals that are driving sales and quickly remove those that just aren’t moving the needle.
4. Turn Black Friday sales into a philanthropic campaign
If you want to avoid participating in the obsessive consumerism that Black Friday provides, there is another option besides opting out. Turning your sales into a donation drive for your favorite charity or nonprofit. Rather than driving sales with deals, instead, commit to donating all or at least a portion of every purchase.
This turns what is typically a mad scramble to get something, into an initiative that helps those that really need it. You can still push this campaign to run after Black Friday and make sure your employees are taken care of over the holiday.
And, while this may not lead to a boost in sales, it does allow your audience to feel good about themselves while shopping. Now moving forward, they’ll associate your brand with initiatives that they care about, potentially turning them into lifelong advocates.
5. Hold an online event
Online events and video chat have become the new normal in 2020. Plenty of businesses have already converted their annual in-person events into virtual ones, so why not do the same for your Black Friday sale?
Either through a webinar hosting platform or just going live on social media, you can turn what would be just another sale into a must-see showcase. Unveil new products or services, unlock more promotions as more people join and even run a holiday giveaway exclusive to those that attend.
The benefit is that you can still choose to opt out of officially doing a Black Friday sale. By limiting the time to 1-2 hours, you can still prioritize your employees having time to spend with friends and family. And it becomes a community-building initiative rather than just a sale, meaning that you can follow up with additional holiday promotions after the event.
Should you opt out of Black Friday?
Follow REI’s advice and get outside. Take advantage of the alternative sales opportunities that have emerged this year and prioritize your employees’ needs.
Your employees will thank you, and you’ll be connecting with your community.
So sit back, relax, and grab an extra slice of pie on Thursday evening—no long lines or angry mob required.
*Editors’ note: This article was originally published in 2013 and updated for 2021.