HIGH POINT — Mention Black Friday, and images of consumers camping out in front of stores, waiting to rush for deeply discounted goods, springs to mind. In the furniture retail space, it’s a little different. While Black Friday can generate good sales, many have extended it to cover most, if not all, of November.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen a shift from the emphasis placed on the Black Friday day itself to slowly transforming all of November into a Black Friday special event,” said Andrew Steinhafel, president of Top 100 Steinhafels.
“We started our Black Friday pretty early this year, which I think is pretty standard across retail,” Steinhafel added.
Added Carson Rowh, CEO of Hometrends, which owns and operates Ashley stores in Nebraska: “About eight years ago, when the height of the retail Black Friday madness was at its peak, we decided it was best to not try to our-compete Walmart and Best Buy for attention and crafted an event to pre-empt the national big boxes by hosting our biggest sale the Saturday before Black Friday, which we’ve dubbed ‘Black Saturday.’ This way we have a slightly unique story, with little other competition for traffic if we want to drive a more urgent message that still has a somewhat recognizable ring to the name.
“This has been one of our best days of the year for many years now, and we expect it will be this year as well,” Rowh said.
A recent survey released by YouGov indicate that spreading sales out is the smarter play. It found 52% of U.S. consumers plan to skip Black Friday shopping this year, with nearly one-fourth of past Black Friday shoppers saying they won’t partake this time. Of those consumers who are skipping, 21% say they doubt the authenticity of discounts, while 62% believe better deals can be had at other times of the year.
So what deals are there to be had? Rowh said his Ashley stores have rotated through a variety of offer stories to create a little bit of urgency.
“We like to open up the month with a heavy finance message — long terms with no minimum and no down — then later in the month a couple versions of discount and special pricing messages, from discount tiers based on volume, or time of day to specially priced groups with limited quantities on hand,” he said. “The week of Black Friday itself, we’ll layer on a “Free Gift with purchase” offer on top of the discounts and special buys.”
The “free gift with purchase” hook is also playing in Wisconsin and Illinois at Steinhafels.
“We certainly lead with some killer price points to drive traffic; $199 recliner, low-priced mattress buys to drive traffic and certain hot buys in upholstery,” Steinhafel said. “We’re doing a gift with purchase at a certain price threshold and promotional financing: 36 months at 0%.”
Top 100 retailer Big Lots has more traditional retail roots in addition to its furniture presence and, as such, is playing up the shopping holiday. In a release, the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer noted that Black Friday is every Friday at Big Lots with a single-day offer revealed each week on Thursdays via email and social media.
“The holidays are our favorite time of year at Big Lots, and we’re going big on extreme bargains so our customers can go big for their families,” said Bruce Thorn, president and CEO of Big Lots, in the release. “Whether it’s trendy décor collections or unique gifts for everyone on their shopping list, customers will be impressed by our outstanding holiday selections and shop with confidence knowing they’re getting some of the best deals available anywhere.”
On Thanksgiving Day, Big Lots will offer one-day deals while supplies last, such as $179.99 for select recliners, $49.99 for select kids’ recliners and $179.99 Real Living king or queen mattresses.
So what are the expectations for the holiday and the remainder of the month?
“This fall has been a little up and down from week to week, with some really slow periods punctuated with high volume weeks,” Rowh said. “It’s been a little difficult to predict, but so far through (early November), we’re trending up double digits against last November with a similar offer, so I expect the month and the holiday week itself to be strong.”
Added Steinhafel, “Even in tougher times, these pillar holiday events will still perform, so that’s keeping us optimistic. Sales continue to be a little challenged, but the sale events continue to perform well. Having a good Black Friday carries us through December and January, which in the upper Midwest, can be a little quiet time of year given uncertain weather conditions.”