Black Friday has traditionally been considered the most important single sales period each year for U.S. retailers. Metrics gleaned from the now four-day event have been standards by which the American consumer and the economy itself were judged. Each year since the recession has seen a rise in holiday spending. The 2016 version has been notable for one major reason - for the first time, more than half of shoppers made their purchases online.

Does this mean that the brick-and-mortar store has lost its appeal as a major shopping destination over the holiday? Has the rise of Cyber Monday doomed Black Friday? The numbers remain positive for local retailers. Spending at physical stores still towers over the online variety. Consumers and retailers are simply changing the way they do business, and it would be wise for local retailers to understand those changes and to take advantage of them.

More Sales, Less Imperative

Black Friday is known mostly for the staggering sales being offered. Consumers rely on the major deals to complete their Christmas lists. But the long lines have become a punchline, and the deals just don’t feel as big as they used to be. That’s because the shopping schedule has been broadened, and sales now appear all the time.

At first it was moving the opening bell to Thanksgiving night itself. Target had a 10 day sales run-up to the main show. Other stores started to offer low prices at the beginning of November. Retailers are content to offer great discounts right up to the New Year. Online and local retailers now offer sales year round, taking some wind out of the big holiday push and making low prices available whenever consumers want to spend. The less focused nature of the spending hasn’t dampened overall yearly retail sales, but has shown the importance of intermittent sales to drive foot traffic for more than a few days.

Local Still Has Clothing, Technology Edge

Brick-and-mortar still has the advantage with items like clothing, a category that makes up more than 50% of all holiday purchases. They are losing to online stores for some gadgets and entertainment products, but big ticket technology like TVs and computers still have consumers looking in store so they know what they are getting. Offering an inviting atmosphere could be the difference between a sale and a customer moving to an online platform.

How Customers Find The Deals

Advertising circulars have long been the place most consumers find the big deals, and that hasn’t changed yet. However, changing attitudes have given brick-and-mortar stores more and more reason to take their advertising online. A full 35% of consumers learned of discounts from direct email campaigns, and more than 50% became aware through online searches and the company websites themselves. If a local retailer isn’t using online marketing options, their big deals are getting less looks.

The Years Ahead

Online sales will continue to gain ground on local brick-and-mortar stores for holiday cash, but offering a unique shopping experience coupled with items that consumers still like to hold in their hands can keep any retailer going. Less time and energy will go towards the holiday season, but a lot of sales throughout the year will keep customers coming back and build brand loyalty.

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