Black Friday lifts all retailers, analysts say (The Green Sheet)

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hen Black Friday opens the holiday season Nov. 24, 2017, the surge of in-store and online shopping will benefit Main Street, not just big-box retailers, according to retail analysts. A new study published Nov. 14, by Womply, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) provider, found 2016 Black Friday sales surpassed Small Business Saturday and December 23 among small business owners.

Womply's data scientists found Black Friday was the top sales day for local retailers in every state except Maine, where Small Business Saturday took top honors. Analysis was based on average daily revenue from 65,000 U.S. businesses for November and December 2016 and January 2017.

"The three biggest sales days for local retailers last year were Black Friday, when sales were 77 percent higher than usual; December 23, when sales were up 48 percent; and Small Business Saturday, when sales climbed 38 percent," Womply stated in a blog post. "It's interesting that Black Friday, which is a major marketing push from big-box retailers, is benefitting independent retailers, too. The reason is likely because Black Friday has become a well-established tradition that gets people out of their homes and into a shopping mindset."

Adjacent opportunities

Brad Plothow, Head of Communications at Womply, said, "Black Friday is typically thought of as a big-box holiday, but small retailers can get an enormous lift from it. Main Street retailers can leverage this trend through extended store hours and targeted, local promotions."

The spillover from adjacent big-box stores to Main Street retailers has been significant, Plothow noted. "It isn't necessary for local retailers to open at midnight to take advantage of this trend," he added. "If you're close to a Wal-Mart that opens at 6 a.m., you'll see people coming out and you can coast off the traffic that's already happening."

Restaurateurs who catered to holiday shoppers saw a 9 percent lift on Black Friday in 2016, Plothow noted. He attributed this trend to shoppers who wanted to spend more time shopping with friends and family, instead of cooking or eating leftovers. "When we looked at other verticals, it was interesting to see Black Friday was not big for anything except hospitality and retail," he said.

Double down on insurance, security

Plothow emphasized the need to be properly insured and prepared for increased in-store traffic, because "you break it; you buy it" policies can be difficult to enforce. He said 81 percent of small retailers carry general liability policies. It's important to understand what these liability policies cover and what recourse you have if you incur any losses, he said. "Use insurance to protect merchandise, especially if you're expecting unruly crowds," he added. "Form queues to change the walk-through experience, to prevent people from breaking things.

Byron Rashed, Vice President, Global Marketing, Advanced Threat Intelligence at InfoArmor, warned that criminals are also actively planning for the holidays. InfoArmor's threat intelligence unit analyzed recent high-profile data security breaches and found increasingly sophisticated attack vectors, he noted. The firm's security analysts expect more exploits against retail and hospitality merchants throughout the high-peak retail shopping season.

"Make sure your processing equipment and IT servers are up to date with vulnerability patches," Rashed said. "Use the latest POS technology and smartcard readers and best security practices to minimize risk; many credit cards and gift cards have been compromised by the underground economy."

Rashed also warned consumers to protect their identities and sensitive data while shopping in stores and online. He recommended subscribing to an identity theft protection service, many of which are cost-effective and easy to implement. Such services "notify consumers immediately when they detect suspicious activity on your credit cards, or when criminals attempt to open new accounts in your name," he stated. "And if you do become a victim of identity theft, they will actively help remediate and restore your compromised PII."