Marketers Take Full Advantage of Black Friday Backlash

Black Friday Line

As  Black Friday sales crept more into Thanksgiving Day itself, there was a growing contingent of the public boycotting the latent consumerism that has engulfed the holiday weekend. Within the last couple years, brands took note and capitalized on the Black Friday Backlash in their marketing strategies.


It’s an unusual strategy. Businesses spent advertising dollars asking people not to go out and buy stuff—and told customers they will not be open for business. But it’s a message that resonated with customers, as evidenced by the growing number of retailers who have jumped on the anti-Black Thursday bandwagon.


Several years ago, businesses like T.J. Maxx, Marshall’s and Home Goods made news with their decision to push back against the “Black Friday creep.” Last year, REI announced that not only would it be closed on Thanksgiving, but it would be closed on Black Friday as well, encouraging employees and customers alike to #OptOutside over the holiday weekend (a campaign that fits perfectly with the REI brand). Black Friday is now a paid holiday for all REI employees.


This year, more companies joined the anti-Black Thursday trend, including major names like Costco, Nordstrom, Crate & Barrel, IKEA, OfficeDepot and Sam’s Club. Most of these companies included messages in their advertising stressing the importance of spending time with family over the holiday, essentially using moralism as a marketing strategy.


Principled or practical?Thanksgiving Dinner

Of course, there are plenty of skeptics who would say that while these brands were attempting to make their anti-Black Thursday stances appear to be based on principle, there were also practical reasons to keeping their doors closed on Thanksgiving.


For example, a MarketLive study revealed that approximately 65 percent of consumers either “hate” or “dislike” retailers opening for business on Thanksgiving, compared to just 12 percent of Americans who “like” or “love” it. Viral videos of customers “storming the gates” to get door-buster sales on Thanksgiving—sometimes getting into fist fights and wrestling matches over electronics and toys—continue to turn people off to Black Friday. This year being no exception: with three deaths and six injuries from shopping related shootouts at malls across the U.S.


As the sales numbers roll in from Black Friday, it appears though people stayed home, they were still shopping.  This year marked the first year in retail history where mobile sales broke $1 billion dollars, with overall online sales hitting record-breaking $3billion. Online sales on Black Thursday topped out at $1.93 billion – an increase of 11.5 percent.


Time will tell whether this surge of anti-consumerism in Thanksgiving marketing will lead to changes in the way holiday sales are run, or if this is just a passing fad. But for now, expect to continue to see more businesses adopting this trend – it is a “goodwill gesture” that consumers like and there is always online shopping.

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