Last week REI, the popular outdoor and sporting goods retailer, made a surprising announcement: it will close all 143 of its stores on Black Friday to encourage employees (and customers) to enjoy the outdoors. In a season when many businesses have an intense focus on the bottom line, this radical announcement earned the company significant buzz and positive feedback. In addition, REI also invited other retailers to join them in taking a stand against the consumerism surrounding Black Friday.
Although the response to this decision has been positive, many small and medium-sized businesses may not have the luxury to explore this option, since Black Friday is one of the largest revenue days of the year. Whether you’re a pure online player or planning to open up a physical storefront on Black Friday, there are still important lessons to be learned from REI’s decision that can help improve your brand and business!
Build positivity and buzz around your brand with a radical campaignIt’s safe to assume that REI is hyper-aware of their brand and customers. They cater to individuals who love the outdoors, value experiences over material possessions and will pay more to support a cause they care about. Their decision to close speaks directly to their target audience and offers an inspirational goal that people can get behind.
To apply this to your business, start by taking a close look at your customers and think about actions that would appeal to them. Do you sell pet products and have a strong local presence? Perhaps you could allow a local humane society to host an adoption event to encourage people to rescue dogs and cats for holiday gifts. If you sell apparel, you could offer to donate an item of clothing to a fair-trade clothing non-profit for every $50 spent in your store.
The possibilities are endless, so get creative! A radical campaign is just that – something that gets the public’s attention and builds loyalty. Invite your employees and friends to brainstorm and create a successful campaign for your business.
Take it onlineRemember: an online presence offers certain freedoms that pure brick-and-mortar plays don’t have. In these situations, an online store can be an ideal outlet that caters to your customers and employees. Many consumers refuse to brave the Black Friday crowds and actually prefer to shop great deals online, in their pajamas.
Keep this in mind when planning your Black Friday strategies. Will eliminating the costs of opening your physical store and paying employees overtime contribute positively to your bottom line? If the answer is yes, maybe it’s worthwhile to offer better online deals and focus your extra budget on email marketing and paid search ads to drive targeted traffic.
If you do plan to open your doors on Black Friday, it’s important to understand that most of your employees would prefer not to work during a holiday weekend. In situations like this, a little appreciation can go a long way. Start the day with a short speech to show your gratitude, offer a delicious, holiday-themed lunch (no, not pizza!), or reward your team with a gift card to a popular retailer. The gesture doesn’t have to be immense. A little acknowledgement goes a long way in boosting morale, which, in turn, will have a positive impact on customer interactions.
Remember the passions that inspired you to start your businessOne of the best things about REI’s decision was how true it felt to the company’s core values. They sell sports and outdoor equipment, they are a member-owned cooperative and they support being outside as much as possible. Their announcement served to bring the original message of REI back into razor-sharp focus, allowing the company to rediscover its passion, even amid rampant holiday spending.
Entrepreneurs tend to be very busy people and, in the thick of a busy season, it can be difficult to remember the joys of starting and running a business. During these periods, it’s wise to set aside a small window of time (think 15 minutes or less) to remember why you chose to start a business in the first place. Whether you are selling handmade items, reselling from a distributor or offering a service, there was a reason that you chose to pursue this challenging, but more rewarding path. Remind yourself of your passions when stress levels are high. It will help you to better focus your efforts, make the chaos more manageable and lend much-needed positivity to the daily grind.
When a company like REI takes a stand against a behemoth like Black Friday, it can invoke excitement and uncertainty, depending on where you stand on the issue. But remember, every business is different, and you are the best judge of what works for your customers and employees. Even if you can’t close shop for Black Friday, you can still build a stronger brand and business that will help you have a successful holiday season!