“Black Friday Week NOW: extra 40%-80% off EVERYTHING” If your inbox is anything like mine, the last three weeks has seen an influx of Black Friday promotions, aiming to create ‘buy now or lose out’ panic because the day after Thanksgiving is the best time to score discounts – right? Not necessarily. In fact, revenue-wise, Black Friday is not the biggest day for stores.
Shopping holidays are a worldwide phenomenon. The Singles Day or Double 11, a Chinese shopping holiday that originated as an unofficial holiday for bachelors, has become the largest offline and online shopping day in the world. This year Alibaba broke the Singles Day record with more than $38 billion in sales, attributed to expanded discounted items and a heavy emphasis on livestreaming. There’s much the U.S. can learn from Alibaba, and with the winter holiday season achieving the biggest sales period for retailers (accounting for approximately 20 percent of total annual sales), there are multiple chances to take a share.
Traditionally the winter holiday season kicked off with Black Friday (1952), although the term “Black Friday” was coined closer to 1961. However, the rise of online shopping, competitive discounts and circular shipping has led a bulk of retailers to extend the occasion across the entire month of November. Thanksgiving Day has outpaced Black Friday, and previously reluctant luxury retailers now offer discounts across fashion labels, fine jewelry and high-end homewares. Cyber Monday (the Monday after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, created by retailers to encourage people to shop online) and Green Monday, described as the best sales day in December (usually the second Monday) continue the trend having exceeded Black Friday sales. And it continues; while select brands retain their pride in value (there are rumors that Louis Vuitton destroys surplus stock vs. discounting), last year 156 million Americans shopped on “Super Saturday” (the Saturday before Christmas) – 26 million more than participated in Black Friday sales.
With discount demand reaching an all-time high, we combine consumer & retail expertise, data analytics and behavioral science to evaluate the reliability of the shopping holiday model and forecast reinvention.
2009 saw a rise of fashion rental sites. From U.S.-based Rent the Runway, to Girl Meets Dress in the U.K. and YCloset in China, consumers worldwide embraced fashion rotation at a fraction of the retail price. The rental economy is growing, and the industry is projected to be worth $1.9 billion by the end of 2023 – but can a temporary fix truly surpass the allure of an 80% discount?
To answer we must look to the next wave of consumers to assess the impact their views and behaviors may have on consumption and beyond.
Gen Z, the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and newest generation to be named, make up nearly 74 million people in U.S. They were born between 1995-2015, and currently aged between 4-24 years old. Dubbed the “truth” generation, they value individual expression, avoid labels and are motivated by the causes they believe in. Unlike Millennials, dubbed the “me generation,” Gen Z are focused on improving the world.
This collective value-system will influence the way Gen Z consume and forge brand relationships and McKinsey & Company urge companies to be attuned to three implications for this generation: consumption as access rather than possession, consumption as an expression of individual identity, and consumption as a matter of ethical concern. Shopping holiday transformation will be essential as mass production, surplus packaging and shipping cycles will conflict with the core principles of this cause driven, generation of idealists.
The question becomes whether retailers can thrive through purpose?
It may be difficult to imagine a Thanksgiving/Black Friday that replaces consumer discounts with donations to worthy causes… Cyber Monday as the day that loyalty points convert into physical action to solve on-the-ground community needs… or Green Monday taking on a new meaning, such as the day big retailers eliminated non-sustainable packaging… But the retailers and brands that don’t reinvent for the next generation in a way that matches their ideals and values, run the risk of being unable to secure their custom and loyalty no matter how many shopping holidays they promote.
Gen Z are digital natives, born into an environment that expresses instantly, without inhibition or stereotype. This “radically inclusive” behavior is core to the “truth” the generation seeks; for themselves as they experiment with their individual identities, for others as they have fewer confrontations/more dialogue to understand different truths, and for the world as they demand and unveil truths to better society. They engage with the companies they feel reject their personal values to evaluate what makes sense for them and are more willing to accommodate the failings of companies if real-time dialogue fosters understanding and positive change.
But why wait until then?
The opportunity is ripe for retailers and brands to engage this “communaholic” cohort – listen to their feedback and ask about their needs, co-design strategies that align with their values, test and evaluate application through their behavior and create an authentic and meaningful connection to secure their allegiance, because this next-gen consumer is set to lead a shopping holiday revolution.