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Black Friday comes in many colors at retail

Published November 26, 2012

With mixed emotions and expectations, retailers jumped into the Thanksgiving shopping weekend with Black Friday sales promotions that saw equally uneven results.

Sid’s Bikes NYC’s Eastside Manhattan store entered the Black Friday fray for the first time this year, offering different levels of bike discounts based on price point and as much as 50 percent off clothing for the entire holiday weekend, co-promoting the sale along with the observance of Small Business Saturday.

Manager Dave Bush said the shop moved a lot of winter clothing and a smattering of complete bikes. He described the weekend as “OK, but not great.”

“I think it’s something worth trying to see where it can go. Bike sales weren’t real great, but those who bought got some great deals,” Bush added. “Would I try it again? Yeah, I would.”

Fellow Manhattan shop Bicycle Habitat promoted its second annual Black Friday sale via its email list and Facebook and Twitter accounts and similarly offered deals all weekend, including small discounts on 2013 bikes and deeper discounts on older models.

“We did a door buster on Kryptonite locks that went very well. We also moved through a fair amount 2012 bikes,” said manager Matthew Bigler-McCorkell. Compared with the same weekend last year, overall sales were up 10 to 15 percent, he added.

Last year, Gregg’s Cycles in Seattle, Washington, put all its kids’ bikes on sale for Black Friday. The three-store retailer didn’t see much of a return. This year, it targeted a wider variety of merchandise, but “honestly, we saw a negligible impact,” said general manager Marty Pluth. “There’s such a big effort put on by the mass merchants on Black Friday that it makes it tough for us to compete.”

Black Friday ended up the slowest day of the holiday weekend at Gregg’s, but that may be because it was also the period’s soggiest day in Washington, Pluth notes. Sales brightened along with the weather on Saturday and Sunday.

“We had a good weekend last weekend, but we had dry weather, and that’s more of a factor for us in the Northwest than anything to do with Black Friday,” Pluth said.

There were no door busters to be found at Tree Fort Bikes’ brick-and-mortar store in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Instead, the multichannel retailer pushed a “Cyber-er Weekend” on its website, offering to match any competitor’s “legitimate price” right away. Also, free shipping on all orders continues through Wednesday.

Tree Fort already offered some online price matching through the Price Machine function on its site, and the deeper discounts through the Black Friday promotion are geared more toward maintaining goodwill with existing customers rather than acquiring new ones, noted Tree Fort president Scott Mulder. “We want to keep our customers and keep them happy,” he said.

“We have done triple the sales each day of the weekend, but our profit is pretty much in line with where we are on a normal day,” said Mulder, adding that working at such a low margin is unsustainable over the long haul.

Tree Fort chose not to do any Black Friday promotion at brick and mortar due to the expense of advertising to drive sufficient customers through the door and the difficulty of competing against big-box retailers that command consumers’ attention with slashed prices on electronics and other products with more mass appeal. “We’re kind of up against the video game industry and the Apple industry,” Mulder said.

Back at Gregg’s Cycles, general manager Pluth questioned some bicycle retailers’ Black Friday strategies. One competitor in his market, for example, offered everything in the store at 25 percent off suggested retail this year.

“I think it’s a way to get people into your store, but you’re not going to make any money. I think some people are just floundering on how to compete on that day,” he said.


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