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Christmas has come early! Too early.

In February this year we wrote about how last year’s Black Friday week sales led to decreased spending in December. Although it’s way too early to tell if the same thing will happen this year, it’s a bet we’d like to make, sadly.

This year, Aussie retailers are expected to have moved over $5 billion worth of product between Black Friday and Cyber Monday alone – and that doesn’t include all the sales before Black Friday. In total, November 2019 sales are looking like they’ll be up on last year. Will this mean a bigger dip in December than we saw last year? Quite likely. Here’s why.

At least in Australia, Black Friday felt like a much bigger deal this year with everyone and their dog bragging about the bargains they scored. It seemed like this was the year Black Friday weekend really cemented its place in the Aussie retail zeitgeist – even the supermarkets got involved.

People are now realising that the perfect time to get their Christmas shopping done is the end of November, which is likely to make the lead up to Christmas feel less Christmassy than ever. 

But the monster has been created now and it’s too late to go back. The huge pre-Christmas sales won’t be going away any time soon, so what can retailers do about their margins being squeezed hard? Here’s three easy little wins. They’re only small, granted, but they’re better than nothing.

Make them pay…in data

If customer data is the new gold, make sure you get as much of it as you possibly can by only offering your Black Friday bargains to members of your loyalty club. This way you’ll be able to grow your customer base (and then directly communicate with them long after the event), as well as track their profitability over time, meaning more valuable data.

Make free shipping a little more difficult. Or easier.

If your customers are saving a tonne of cash, they can afford to buy a tonne of product – so it makes sense to increase your free shipping spend threshold. But if you don’t usually offer free shipping, maybe this is a good time to do so and offer a value-add over your competitors. Kmart and Target are doing a good job of this by offering free shipping on orders over $45 to Club Catch members. And catch.com.au is owned by Wesfarmers, of course. Very clever.

Free online returns? What free online returns?

If it doesn’t fit, they can either bring it in store and exchange it or post it back at their own expense. No returns for change of mind available on sale items, sorry.

So what stood out this Black Friday week?

We noticed a few brands – Freedom Furniture and Nick Scali spring to mind – cleverly naming their sales in such a way as to extend the Black Friday hype way beyond Black Friday. Freedom called theirs the ‘Blackout Sale’, and Nick Scali went for ‘Black November’. We also noticed Kogan, who had a massive Black Friday (sales up over 80 per cent on 2018) offering different incentives for different categories, rather than a sitewide percentage off. A strategy that clearly worked very well for them.

As Aussie retailers brace for a disappointing Christmas, with rate cuts and $5.5 billion in tax relief not being enough to get shoppers to open their wallets thus far in December, we’re expecting to see retailers forced to embrace Last Minute Christmas Sales more than ever. Amazon’s going big this year, meaning the rest of the retail world is likely to follow.

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