Holiday Stars

Oh, the joy of the season: pushing and shoving, the same five songs on repeat, lines that wind around the mall, and the lumpy pile of colorful wool that once was the sweater display. 
Last year, I stood in one such overheated, never-ending line at JCrew, and just when I was about to drop my stash of cashmere and bail, a cheerful store clerk offered me a treat from a tray of warm cookies. My mood melted like those gooey chocolate chips. I wanted to reach out and give the clerk a hug. Why was I being rewarded for shopping when this “retail warrior” was on her feet keeping that store organized and customers happy all day?
I started thinking that whatever is being paid to the retail employee working on Black Friday, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, it’s absolutely not enough! And – especially now that stores are virtually never closed from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day – they are mostly sacrificing the family gatherings to which their earnings were meant to bring joy.
In searching for reports of companies working to ensure employee happiness as much as customer satisfaction, I found very little inspirational evidence there were many looking out for their retail army out on the front lines. In one small example, Apple has begun “perking” its employees with “App Discovery,” allowing store employees free access to popular paid Apps. Smart thinking, because while that perk looks like it is meant for employees, the underlying benefit is really the ability for them to demo and recommend Apps to customers.
Oftentimes when designing promotion platforms and even retailer-specific shopper marketing programming, we are so worried about the “shopper experience” that the employee — the one really making that experience come to life – is an afterthought. So this holiday season I challenge my colleagues here at TPN to think about how to make sure Associate Engagement and Satisfaction is top of mind and a key element of all of our retail ideas.
And I am going to remind myself and encourage you readers to remember that Everything Matters, even a simple smile and “Happy Holidays!” And if the store associate really delivers exemplary service, consider a quick note or a whisper to their manager on the way out. 

Black Friday 2012—the Aftermath


The election results are in, and Americans have resoundingly voted with their wallets: Black Friday creep is here to stay. 
Nancy Koehn, a professor at Harvard Business School, wrote a very thoughtful pre-Thanksgiving article on this recent trend: 
While I personally share Professor Koehn’s lament about the incursion of consumerism into what has been a sacrosanct American holiday since 1863, the numbers don’t lie. 
Despite numerous petitions aimed against the practice of starting Black Friday sales Thanksgiving evening, retailers will be emboldened by the fact that the number of people shopping on Thanksgiving Day grew from 29 million last year to an estimated 35 million this year. 
And they did it without cannibalizing weekend sales—overall retail sales for Black Friday weekend increased from $52.4 billion last year to $59.1 billion this year, a 13% jump! (1) 
Online sales, as you would expect, played a part in this sales growth.  IBM notes that online sales on Thanksgiving Day grew over 17%, and this set the stage for greater than 20% growth on Black Friday.
For the full scoop related to online shopping over the Black Friday weekend, check out “The Black Friday Report 2012,” published by IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark: 
Thanksgiving will always be the holiday for pausing to give thanks and enjoying time with family.  But it looks like the pause won’t be quite so long next year as more of us opt for Gray Thursday deals and a lap around the big box in lieu of that second piece of pie.    
(1)National Retail Federation

Retail Gives Back

I’m applauding Frederick Anderson and Laura Miller’s upcoming “Park Avenue Garage” — New York’s first Pop-up luxury garage sale. Some of New York’s most notable designers, fashion houses and individuals will be contributing a wide range of goods for the three-day consignment sale that will run from Thursday, December 13 through Saturday, December 15. Proceeds benefit the New Yorkers For Children charity.
 The organizers are using some of the great principles of retail to ensure success:
  1. Creating hype and interest by utilizing a limited time only strategy (3 days)
  2. Tap into the excitement around Pop-up retail — shoppers already know what it means and what to do
  3. Cultivate exclusivity by having a pay-to-attend preview sale on opening night
  4. Great value, discounted, one-of-a-kind merchandise
  5. Great packaging. The invitation is cool and likely the space will be too. It looks like something you want to attend.

This event sounds FUN, and it gives back. It’s an experience that you’d like to have with some friends, make an evening out of and feel good about. Everyone — from the donator/shopper, the cause and designers — all come away winners. Retail as a charitable vehicle is not a new idea; but with the pop-up store, cool designers and the sense of urgency, this is retail truly reimagined.

Well done.