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Insight Reports 6 minutes

Holiday 2019: US Black Friday Insights

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Coresight Research

Key Points

On November 29, the Coresight Research team undertook its annual tour of stores for Black Friday. We visited 65 stores of 32 different retailers in the US. We had shoppers in New York, New Jersey, Hawaii and Illinois, at outlets, luxury malls, downtown locations, neighborhood centers and regional malls. In this report, we analyze each store according our proprietary BEST framework for physical retail.

  • Store activity varied greatly: There were long lines at American Eagle Outfitters, Bed Bath and Beyond, the Nike Outlet, Old Navy and Target; but there were no wait times at Costco and drugstores.
  • Ann Taylor, Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdale’s, Ulta Beauty and Walmart were the top five retailers this Black Friday, ranked according to Coresight Research’s BEST framework.
  • Of the 32 retailers visited, 25 offered promotions, with discounts averaging 37–47%. 
  • Although technology does not typically play a major role in Black Friday, stores this year offered automated displays, cell phone chargers, digital payment options, self-checkout and “Buy Online, Pick Up in Store” kiosks.
  • Shoppers seemed motivated by Black Friday deals this year. Home and consumer electronics products were strong, indicating that consumers continue to invest in their homes. Accessories and clothing were top sellers too.

Methodology

Coresight Research’s proprietary BEST framework is designed to help retailers strategize physical retail around four themes (see Figure 1): Brand Building, Experiences, Service and Technology Integration. To better compete with online alternatives, physical stores need to evolve from offering purely transactional commerce to emphasizing destination retail. According to the BEST framework, brick-and-mortar stores should enhance the retailer’s brand; provide experiences that deepen the consumer’s relationship with the retailer and create a reason for a return visit; provide relevant and brand-appropriate services; and have in-store technology that allows for seamless shopping.

Figure 1. The BEST Framework for Brick-and-Mortar Stores
Source: Coresight Research

On Black Friday, the Coresight Research team evaluated stores using the four BEST criteria, giving each retailer one red star (for one point), a half red star (for a half point) or a black star (for zero points). We summarize the results in the following table.

Figure 2. Summary of Black-Friday Store Visits

Figure 2. Summary of Black-Friday Store Visits-2
Source: Coresight Research

 

Analysis of Stores Visited by BEST Criteria

We discuss the top performing retailers across the four criteria of the BEST framework and include photographs from multiple different stores to showcase retailers’ Black Friday activities.

Brand Building

We assessed stores against four subcategories of brand building:

  • Brand storytelling
  • Incentivizing coupons or special deals to encourage a repeat visit
  • Superior customer service
  • Co-branding/relevant partnerships

Each retailer earned a star, a half star or no star for how they satisfied the subcategories, equating to a score of 1, 0.5 or 0, respectively. With a total average score of 0.9, the strongest performer in the category of brand building was clothing retailer Express. Making up the rest of the top five were Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdale’s, Nordstrom and Ralph Lauren, all of which received a score of 0.8. 

  • Express demonstrated strong brand storytelling. It offers trendy clothing for young women and men, from business formal to party clothes. Express also launched a brand ambassador program, which increased its presence on social media. The retailer always has clothes on sale, but it does not encourage repeat visit very strongly because it does not provide gift cards or coupons for next visit. Customer service was good on Black Friday—assistants were warm and helped customers find their size and style. Express has a partnership with the NBA, through which an NBA-licensed collection has been released.
Express store display
Express store display
Source: Coresight Research
Marshalls’ store display
Marshalls’ store display
Source: Coresight Research

 

Experiences

We assessed the stores against four subcategories of experiences:

  • Seasonal In-Store Experiences—for example, Santas, DJs and product trials/demos
  • Seasonal Decorations
  • Hospitality—for example, champagne and hot cocoa
  • Gamification, doorbusters or hourly specials

With a total average score of 0.9, the strongest performer in the category of experiences was department store Bloomingdale’s. Making up the rest of the top five were Abercrombie & Fitch, Bed Bath & Beyond, Lowe’s and Ulta Beauty, all of which received a score of 0.8.

  • Bloomingdale’s offered lots of sales, with holiday and space travel themes.
  • Bed Bath & Beyond offered amazing doorbusters from 5:00 p.m. until midnight on Thanksgiving and from 6:00 a.m. until noon on Black Friday. Appliances won hands down.
  • The store experience across retailers on Black Friday was truly unbelievable, with great deals and service.
Bloomingdale’s store display
Bloomingdale’s store display
Source: Coresight Research
Macy’s DJ
Macy’s DJ
Source: Coresight Research

 

Service

We assessed the stores against four subcategories of service:

  1. In-store customer service—for example greetings, directions and help in finding products
  2. Buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS)
  3. Buy in Store and Ship from Store
  4. Sustainability, or recycle/resale/recommence focus

With a total average score of 1, the strongest performer in the category of service was women’s clothing retailer Ann Taylor, followed by Express with a score of 0.9. Making up the rest of the top five were Bed Bath & Beyond, Bloomingdale’s and Walmart, all of which received a score of 0.8. The staff at Ann Taylor is always helpful.

  • Express always has very welcoming assistants to help customers with sizing and styling. There are also both BOPIS and Buy in Store and Ship from Store options. The company has community partners and has made significant donations to cancer organizations, minority empowerment and hunger charities, yet it does not have programs on suitability.
  • Walmart offers good services, but the pick-up option takes some time to research locations and availability. The retailer had a big focus on its layaway with Affirm. Walmart displayed BOPIS signage. There were not enough sales associates, but they made a strong effort.
Exuberant sales associates at American Eagle
Exuberant sales associates at American Eagle
Source: Coresight Research
Mrs. Santa greeting customers
Mrs. Santa greeting customers
Source: Coresight Research

 

Technology Integration

We assessed the stores against four subcategories of technology integration:

  • Omnichannel integration—transparent inventory across chain and online
  • In-store technology, including virtual try-on and size finder
  • Digital payment options—for example, ApplePay, WeChat Pay, Alipay, Samsung Pay and Venmo
  • Checkout process

With a total average score of 0.9, the strongest performer in the category of technology integration was Bloomingdale’s. Making up the rest of the top five were Ann & Taylor, Kohl’s, Lowe’s and Zara, all of which received a score of 0.8.

  • Bloomingdale’s used virtual reality and gamification.
  • Zara offered self-checkout powered by Sensormatic, in which the customer places the items on a platform and they are scanned together, rather than scanned individually.
  • Kohl’s offered digital signage, in addition to technology to find a size online if it was not available in the store. 
Branded phone-charging bank at Banana Republic
Branded phone-charging bank at Banana Republic
Source: Coresight Research
Sears pick-up and exchange kiosk
Sears pick-up and exchange kiosk
Source: Coresight Research

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