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Retailers' strategies differ leading up to the holiday shopping season

Published November 27, 2019

AUSTIN, Texas (BRAIN) — A.J. Camp experienced enough subpar Black Fridays to form an opinion on one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

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"We've had Black Fridays where we've stayed open to see what happens, and what we found is it's a pretty slow day," said Camp, owner of The Peddler Bicycle Shop in Austin for 15 years. "I guess everyone is out for the electronics and all those crazy deals. It seems to us it's worth it to give our people a chance to hang out with their families over some sale day that to me hasn't panned out that well."

While Camp will be closed once again this Black Friday, most bike retailers will be open, according to a BRAIN poll from last week. Of the 186 respondents, 66% will open and offer discounts to drive traffic to their stores.

Ashley Rosonke is the communications manager at SmartEtailing, the digital marketing service for nearly 300 bike shops in the U.S. and Canada. She said its research indicates retailers are more engaged this Black Friday and Cyber Monday than in year's past.

"We have a relatively good perspective on a cross-section of retailers," Rosonke said.

She said a lot of retailers are having "Black Friday Weekend Sales" that go through Dec. 2 (Cyber Monday), with a single promotion. In between is Small Business Saturday.

That's Grove Street Bicycles' game plan this weekend. Co-owner Rodney Morweiser said the Jersey City, New Jersey, store will kick off the winter season on Black Friday, offering 10% off bike purchases and 20% off accessories through Cyber Monday. Morweiser, is part of Giant's and SmartEtailing's Weblink program, which can connect local retailers' on-hand inventory with the Giant website.

Morweiser has guarded expectations.

"Even this weekend, a lot of people are still tire-kicking," he said. "It's hard to immediately make that sale. I get it. We're in a different time where everyone can point and click, and no one is thinking of bikes under a tree when it's 30 degrees (outside)."

Free-Flite Bicycles in Atlanta will participate in Trek Bicycle's holiday sale, with rebates on all Trek bikes through Cyber Monday and 20% off Bontrager parts and accessories, said Daniel Thornton Jr., Free-Flite general manager. It also will offer closeouts on selected Trek and Santa Cruz bikes and gear from 2019.

Scott Irons, owner of Indy Cycle Specialist in Indianapolis, falls somewhat between Camp and Morweiser. After not doing much on previous Black Fridays, Irons said his store will be more involved this year. He'll offer discounts on 2019 bikes, all apparel, including gloves and helmets.

"We're hoping to bring customers into the shop on Friday and Saturday," Irons said.

Rosonke said SmartEtailing's research shows an increase in dedicated Cyber Monday events, with website coupon codes valid for up to 25% off certain parts and accessories. She said most common offers are tiered discounts on bikes ($25 off $300 or less; $50 off $999 or less, etc.) and percentage discounts on parts and accessories.

While the Peddler Bicycle Shop will sit out Black Friday, Camp will be open on Small Business Saturday, a day holiday shoppers are encouraged to patronize local brick and mortar businesses. A current BRAIN poll, asking retailers if they are participating in Small Business Saturday, shows 43% of 161 respondents said they will, 37% said they won't and 20% said they never heard of the day, which began 10 years ago.

"Black Friday is more of a big-box holiday," Camp said. "I don't know if it's as applicable to bike shops. Our Black Friday is Small Business Saturday. We've put more focus on that day. It makes more sense for us to be involved in that day."

The Peddler will offer 10% off bikes and 15-20% elsewhere throughout the store. "It's been a good Saturday (in the past), but not a record Saturday," Camp said.

QBP is celebrating Small Business Saturday on its website, encouraging retailers to grow their holiday margins by stocking up on holiday sale items.

Cosmic Bikes in Chicago gets a boost from Small Business Saturday. A business group organizes a trolley tour for shoppers. Participating businesses are listed on a card, which is stamped after the visit. At the end of the tour, the cards are collected and a drawing is held for a gift card.

"We don't have a high density of businesses," said Justyna Frank, co-owner of Cosmic Bikes. "The network of businesses is spread out, but we support each other."

In 2015, REI Co-op made headlines by closing for Black Friday, and it will pay its employees again this year to not only "OptOutside" but also "opt to act" by joining a nationwide clean-up effort.

QBP is celebrating Small Business Saturday on its website.

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