I was flipping through the news today, and came across an article entitled “Americans Not Willing To Spend Without Deals.” My first thought was “You’re surprised by this? ” and then “And whose fault is that?”
Retailers are starting Christmas earlier and earlier every year- this year, it seemed to back right up on Back to School Shopping. (Lewis Black rant included below- beware- it’s not safe for work- with the key phrase here being “How long does it take you people to shop?!?!?!?!?”) I’m all for the holiday spirit, but around Thanksgiving works for me, not the middle of September. I’m not going to magically open my wallet just because you want me to- I need a good compelling reason to part with my cash sooner rather than later.
The retail sector has also trained us for an all out shopping Armageddon of “blockbuster deals” for the day after Thanksgiving, and now retailers are doing the same thing on Thanksgiving itself. Still others are trying to start their “specials” early in November, trying to entice us to buy ever more, as early as possible. I don’t know about you, but Christmas ads in October just make me angry, not any more inclined to start the Season of Acquisition and Procurement.
As a result, what have customers learned? I would argue we have learned the following:
1. Your “Best deal of the season” is just a tease. If no one is buying enough, there will always be one better deal to come, and sometimes, we can even wait until right after Christmas to score. I have NO confidence that your Early Bird Special Pricing is true, because you keep changing the offer so frequently, I almost don’t care any more, because I can no loner remember what the “real” price should be.
2. We don’t always need to shop more. In fact, many of us have figured out we have to shop better, or even less, so it’s more about things we will use, and less about filling the need to have some sort of box under a tree. Quality is outpacing quantity, and with quality easier to research than ever before, there’s little incentive for going for the quantity approach for anyone over the age of seven or so.
3. I even have more and more friends deciding that experience is better than stuff, so we’ll go out to lunch, make each other something, or otherwise spend time versus money on each other- and we’re much happier for it.
4. I’m tired of everything in my life having pricing and value that fluctuates as much as the price of airline tickets. The thing will always be more or less, every day, taking predictability out of the equation. Unless it’s a super big ticket item where I know how much I want to spend, and I’m watching the prices carefully, I’ve given up on the “best deal” in favor of getting what I need, when I need it.
5. You have trained us all year long to know your pricing is dynamic and there’s always another sale just around the corner. Therefore, there’s always going to be some coupon or deal available, so why should I pay retail price? JC Penny had trained its customers to the coupon so well, that when they went to “everyday low pricing”, their customers still thought a coupon would be coming to get a deal. They got us addicted to the deal, even if the end price wasn’t any different, with or without the coupon. So no coupon means no customers…. and they only have themselves to blame.
6. I am just about sick to death of watching people go crazy for a retail experience on Thanksgiving, and seeing people almost trample others in search of “The Spirit of Giving.” This is a level of crazy you won’t see me participate in- I’ll be at the movies with my family and getting chinese food.
7. With “Cyber Monday” and Amazon willing to deliver on Sundays, why should I risk the Mall during the holidays at all? It’s all available online, often with free shipping. Sloth will rule the day.
8. I really have the same number of people to shop for each year, not too many more or less. The tastes of my kids have changed, so I’m no longer beholden to whatever Toys R Us has in stock, and I tend to start looking for the “cool stuff” on sites like Think Geek, well in advance of the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you should start pushing holiday spending in July- it means you should have great stuff all year long. And by making Christmas merely a seasonal excuse for excess, you are actually sucking the joy out of the whole experience of shopping in the first place.
9. Someone has to stop the madness. I will not only be trying to “shop local” more this year, but do whatever I can to minimize the spend with places like Walmart that encourage the “Trample Your Community for a Deal” mentality. (It also doesn’t help that more than one friend has had an experience where those “early bird deals” are actually a “Bait and Switch” to get you to buy something with a higher profit margin for the retailer, making me skeptical of the deal value to begin with.) I’m also more likely to actually send gifts to distant relatives along the lines of Lobster-gram or Quarterly.co packages- at least this sort of gift is a real surprise.
10. Yes, retailers, you can get my attention on every media channel alive, but think about how and why you’re spending your ad dollars. If I am a loyal customer, treat me like a loyal customer. Discounts are okay, but if I love you, I’m ready to pay what you ask because the value is clear to me. How about making the experience of shopping more peaceful? Add Service? Treat me well all year long, not just at the holidays? - that would make me a much happier customer, and more likely to do business with you more than once a year.
Thank you for reading this rant- back to your regularly scheduled blog posts later this week.