Robin’s Blog

Black Friday, Cyber Monday: Irrelevant and Misleading?

rr_black-friday-cyber-mondayIt’s a silly game to keep tracking Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Just as same-store sales became a meaningless measure of performance once e-commerce took off, Black Friday and Cyber Monday became irrelevant when retailers began trying to outdo each other by starting both events earlier and earlier with deeper promotions.  Amazon launched its 2016 Black Friday campaign on November 1st to run through December 22nd.  Furthermore, most senior retail executives I talk to cynically admit that Black Friday is an everyday event, all year long.  It’s like being in Marine Corps boot camp when the drill instructor shouts out “… every day is a holiday and every meal is a banquet in the Marine Corps.” Over time, one begins to believe it.

The concepts of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now owned by consumers as opposed to being benchmark days for retailers to measure against the previous year and to project Holiday shopping energy.  Just as the Super Bowl is an iconic American event, so too are these whacko consumption events. But they do provide the financial and retail analysts as well as the media with provocative headlines and content. But honestly, it’s kind of like following a marathon dog race.

Another fly in the ointment making the credibility of the consumption numbers suspect is the multitude of sources tracking sales, traffic and performance metrics in different sectors.  Who do you believe when one source says online sales are soaring, yet another says they’re just up over last year, but down significantly from years past? Or even worse, store and mall traffic is reported to be down from one source, but up from another.  Or, promotions started earlier and deeper from one source, but they are aligned with inventory from another.  And so on. And so on. Let’s get rid of all these reports that end up as surface noise and are nothing more than confusing.

So if I’m the CEO of a major retailer, do I even care about all of this confusing and contradictory cacophony?  On a macro industry level, maybe, but it’s like tossing grass in the air to see which way the wind is blowing.  The only numbers that really matter are the metrics on a specific store business, and CEOs have to care intensely about how their numbers are stacking up against last year and if Holiday strategies are succeeding.  And these measures aren’t speculative or headline fodder. They are real, daily data based on real transactions and traffic metrics.

So, if you find yourself at a loss for conversation over a luncheon with a colleague, or if you’re one of the soothsayers in the race to have projected the closest Holiday revenue growth, then by all means, yada yada yada on the numbers.

If you want to appear intelligent and maintain your sanity, then tune it all out.

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