It is that time when retailers announce their upcoming plans for Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day weekend, so imagine if the headline that grabbed your attention were actually true.
Had the headline been true, you likely would not have heard it from me first, and there also would probably have been long lines for the executive washrooms this morning because nearly every retail higher up likely would have shit him or herself upon hearing the news.
While amusing, what the headline portends is not only shocking, it also should scare the bejesus out of you because it does not appear that the possibility of such an event is properly on our radar screens right now.
Rather than reading in the press about how companies are devising creative ways to change the Black Friday dialogue to something fresh and new, retail c-suites across the country instead appear to be drawing up plays in the sand using the same Student Body Right Playbook that they have always used for Black Friday.
They, like always, appear to be huddling together, pouring over reams and reams of data, and asking themselves, “When will so-and-so open their doors to the public and what should our competitive response be?” without for one second realizing one all important fact —the game has already changed.
Case in point, Professor Scott Galloway of NYU believes Amazon now has the ability to “Jedi mind trick” Wall Street. Galloway argues that Amazon has become so strong that it only has to look in the direction of another business and quickly that business will begin to wilt on its own vine (for recent examples, see Kroger, Blue Apron, and CVS).
Amazon announcing another Prime Day in advance of Black Friday is FAR BEYOND a Jedi mind trick though.
The below image is a more apt description:
A November Prime Day would be the equivalent of Princess Leia standing on the deck of the Death Star and watching her ENTIRE home planet of Alderaan get blown to smitherines.
The role of a smirking Grand Moff Tarkin would be played by a now incredibly ripped Jeff Bezos, and the “millions of voices crying out in terror” would represent the feelings of everyone in retail that does not work for Amazon.
A November Prime Day would wipe out legacy bricks-and-mortar in one fell swoop.
It would be checkmate.
A preemptive November Prime Day would precipitate a massive shift in channel demand right before the most critical weekend of the holiday season.
A vicious cycle would ensue:
- Customer traffic to stores would be far less than expected
- Store payrolls and schedules would be too rigid to adjust to the traffic decline
- Inventories would back up and lead to even more aggressive discounts in store and online throughout the remainder of the holiday season
- The entire industry would end up in the red
It. Would. Be. A. Bloodbath.
But, fortunately, Amazon won’t make this move.
(sigh of relief)
Amazon is too smart.
While Amazon could deal the death blow, I am guessing Bezos knows it is not worth risking public sentiment at a time when Amazon is doing fine enough already and when nearly every municipality in the country is rolling out the red carpet for their second headquarters location.
Instead, terminator Jeff can sit back and laugh his maniacal James Bond villain laugh as retailers continue to busy themselves with activities to “win” the season — e.g. spending time on things like pivoting their broadcast advertising theatrics to “target millennials” better, discounting deeper than the next guy, and overall promoting yule tide cheer with as many placements on Kathie Lee and Hoda as possible.
Bezos likely knows that retailers are content to stay busy reading and reacting by day to the holiday season using tactics that he knows wll prove nothing in the long-run, especially as long as he holds the Death Star trump card. He likely relishes in watching legacy retail go back to the well on exactly what the word “activities” connotes — “activities” rather than real steps towards accomplishments that might penetrate deep into the trenches of his formidable Death Star.
So clearly we need a new approach.
Like Luke Skywalker, retailers need to follow their intuition and to turn off their targeting computers.
Retailers need to think differently and to pull themselves out of the rat race by bringing the art back to retail.
First, we shouldn’t give a crap about who opens their doors first anymore. Progressive retailers should start to play to the counter trend. They should keep their doors closed on Thanksgiving and publicize their efforts as a conscious decision to give time back to their employees and to their customers so that both their employees and their customers can spend more time with their families.
Second, they should take the money they would have spent being open on Thanksgiving and overtly reinvest it back into the communities within which their stores reside.
Third, retailers should use Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend to celebrate the physical — i.e. the joy we all get from being in physical places that we cannot simulate online with Amazon — and throw the BIGGEST and BADDEST block parties at every one of their stores that they can devise.
I’m talking Santa Clauses, food trucks, DJ’s, local artisans, the whole SHEBANG.
And, let’s not get crazy here, but maybe these retailers could even charge, dare I say it (ok, I will), a “Prime-like” admission fee, possibly even . . . in advance!
But, who am I kidding? That is crazy talk, right?
I’m just some guy on a blog.
But I am crazy enough to know that soon, and very soon, the satirical headline at the top of this post will become as real as a hot kiss at the end of a wet fist.
Our only “new hope” lies in the artistry of the physical.
It is time we start to change the game, to celebrate the physical, and to fire our own preemptive proton torpedoes deep into Amazon’s Death Star exhaust pipe for once.
Be careful out there,
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P.P.S. In case you missed it last week, I was honored to be interviewed by Kristin Carpenter-Ogden for her Channel Mastery podcast. You can find the podcast below — a great listen if you are at the gym.
P.P.P.S. I took a little vacation last week too, which gave me the chance to power through a few additional books on the Top 100 list:
- The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins — pretty good overall. It holds the claim as the first English detective novel. Quite humorous as well, but a long read for sure.
- A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham — makes my personal Top 10 list. Great coming of age story that makes you rethink the definition of the modern family.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez — loved Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera but this one just didn’t do it for me. It was poetic, but quite the slog.
Chris Walton is an accomplished Senior Executive with nearly 20 years of success within the retail and retail technology industries. He is well-versed in merchandising, store operations, inventory management, product design, forecasting, e-commerce, pricing and promotions, and tech product development.
Chris was most recently a Vice President with Target, where he led the retailer’s Store of the Future project and also ran the Target’s home furnishing division for e-commerce. He previously worked for GAP, Inc., as a Distribution Analyst and Manager.
Chris holds a BA in Economics and History from Stanford University, and a MBA from Harvard Business School.
He likes to dress as Darth Vader for Halloween, and his wife also frequently asks him to ask Alexa, "to turn off the music."