Tuesday, November 13, 2012 | Edited by Daniel Moores
||On Thanksgiving, It'll Be Dine-and-Dash as Stores Open Earlier
Skip the second helpings.
It used to be just called Thanksgiving. Now the day is increasingly called Black Friday Eve or Black Thursday, as retailers double down on early opening hours for the kickoff of the holiday shopping season.
This Thanksgiving, some retailers, including the world's largest, are opening earlier than ever, before the dishes are even cleared from the table.
"This is actually something we've seen really take off with consumers in recent years," said Kathy Grannis, spokeswoman at the National Retail Federation. Last year, 24 percent of shoppers said they were at a store at midnight on Black Friday. Just two years earlier, Grannis said, that number was only 9 percent.
Wal-Mart will start the first of three Black Friday sales at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving evening, followed by 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. Last year, Wal-Mart opened at 10 p.m. Thanksgiving night.
"Our customers told us that they loved our Thanksgiving event earlier last year and asked for it again," said Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Spencer. "Our highest customer traffic was during the 10 p.m. hour."
Sears is opening its stores at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving, too. Last year, it opened at 4 a.m. on Black Friday. Like Wal-Mart, it is spacing out its sales: one at the opening, the second at 4 a.m. on Friday. Kmart stores will be open on Thanksgiving Day from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., then will close and reopen from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. They will reopen for a second time at 5 a.m. on Black Friday.
Macy's, Best Buy and Kohl's all will open at midnight this year.
Toys "R" Us will open its doors on 8 p.m. Thanksgiving night, while Target will welcome shoppers at 9 p.m. that evening. J.C. Penney plans to open at 6 a.m. on Black Friday. Last year, Target was one of many retailers that opened at midnight. Penney opened its doors at 4 a.m., while Toys "R" Us was an early adopter of the ultra-early trend, opening at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving night.
Some fans posted complaints to Wal-Mart's Facebook page in response to the news of the Thanksgiving night sales, but analysts say the payoff prompts companies to risk the backlash.
Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at The NPD Group, said that last year, stores that extended their hours to open earlier saw an average 22 percent increase in sales. So, shoppers might complain about the sales encroaching on Thanksgiving dinner, but they're still turning out to buy things anyway.
"It's proved to be a very important strategy," he said. "Retailers are clearly willing to take on whatever wrath they may get by breaking tradition."
"It helps them manage their traffic flow better," said Barbara Wyckoff, an analyst with CLSA/Credit Agricole Securities (USA). By expanding the shopping window and staggering sales times, retailers like Wal-Mart are trying to avoid being overwhelmed with a wave of shoppers all at once, which contributes to a poor customer experience.
While it may give traditionalists heartburn, analysts say Black Friday Eve isn't going away.
"This will continue as far as they can push it," Wyckoff said. "I think it's going to continue to be earlier and earlier."
What people are actually buying on Black Friday is also good for retailers.
"What we learned last year is a lot of that early business is self-purchase and impulse buys," Cohen said. "It creates a whole new dynamic of retail opportunity."
The one thing that could put a halt to stores' temporal arms race would be a resurgent economy.
"We didn’t see these types of promotions before 2008 and 2009," Grannis said. "If we're no longer at a point where people are looking for extreme discounts...and they're really back to just looking for great gift ideas, there could be a shift in how many people want to be out there at midnight."
(Source: NBC News, 11/09/12)
||Small Business Saturday Set for November 24
According to the inaugural Small Business Saturday Insights Survey, released last week by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) and American Express, 46 percent of independent merchants plan to incorporate Small Business Saturday as part of their holiday strategy, and the majority (67 percent) of them say they will offer discounts on November 24th.
"In just three years, Small Business Saturday went from an idea to help Small Business find more customers, to a permanent fixture on the holiday shopping calendar," said Susan Sobbott, president, American Express OPEN. "According to the research, we are seeing the small business community take ownership of the day and make it their own."
Of those small business owners planning to promote Small Business Saturday, 80 percent expect a year-over-year boost in sales on that day, and discounts and special offers for consumers are one of the key incentives to drive consumers to "shop small."
Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and serves as the traditional kick off to the holiday shopping season for independent retailers and restaurateurs. The day was created in response to small business owners' most pressing need: more customers.
"Research has shown that American consumers have a deep trust in, and admiration for, the small business community. Small Business Saturday gives them a chance to show their appreciation -- and help America's essential job creators in a very real way -- by patronizing small shops, restaurants and service providers," said NFIB CEO Dan Danner. "And anything that helps with sales is certainly appreciated by small business owners, many of whom have struggled to stay afloat in a rough and uncertain economy."
While many small business owners will be focusing on driving value to customers through discounts, there are a number of ways that they are planning to take advantage of the opportunity to attract consumers. According to the Small Business Saturday Insights Survey:
The Small Business Saturday Insights Survey was created to provide a window into the 2012 holiday planning for small business owners. Other survey findings include:
- 46 percent will create coupons for future offers or discounts;
- 25 percent will offer free gift wrapping;
- 23 percent will give away prizes or hosts contests;
- 20 percent will give away free items with purchase.
(Source: SportsOneSource Media, 11/08/12)
- 81 percent say Small Business Saturday would be more effective if their communities came together and hosted events;
- 34 percent say Small Business Saturday is the most important shopping day during the holiday season, compared to 24 percent who cited Black Friday and 14 percent who cited Cyber Monday (37 percent said they were all equally important);
- 28 percent intend to increase the number of employees who will work on Small Business Saturday;
- 87 percent will be active in social media channels to promote Small Business Saturday (96 percent of those will be using Facebook, 33 percent will use Twitter, 15 percent will use Google+ and 15 percent will use Pinterest).
||Holiday Travel is Surging This Year
Holiday travelers have been booking early and often this year.
The number of airline tickets sold for Christmas and New Year's is already up more than 50% from a year ago, and prices for airfare and hotel rooms at peak holiday periods, including Thanksgiving, are up sharply. Travel agencies say demand has been strong even as airlines have avoided adding capacity.
"This is not a great year for procrastination," said Simon Bramley, vice president at online travel agency Travelocity. Tickets purchased on Travelocity for domestic Thanksgiving travel were up 9% this year. "If you haven't booked yet, book now. It's not going to get any better," he said.
Christmas and New Year's Day both fall on Tuesdays this winter, stretching the holiday period to at least 11 days, making it easier for families to travel farther and stay longer. Last year, with the holidays on Sunday, there were nine prime holiday travel days.
"There's a natural increase in people taking air travel because they have more time," said Chuck Thackston, managing director of data and analytics at Airlines Reporting Corp., the Arlington, Va., company that settles transactions between airlines and travel agencies.
New York is the top destination for U.S. travelers for Thanksgiving. People pour into the city to shop, see family and watch the Macy's parade.
So far, travel sellers say they haven't seen a large number of cancellations after superstorm Sandy. Broadway shows are back on stage, hotels are operating, the Thanksgiving parade is still on and travelers are coming.
The fancy Mandarin Oriental hotel is sold out Nov. 22 to 25 and the only thing left for Christmas week is a room with a king bed for $1,871 a night. If you want to trade down to the Hampton Inn by Madison Square Garden, forget it. It is also sold out for Wednesday to Sunday around Thanksgiving. Christmas week at the Hampton Inn: $418 per night.
A spokesman for Hilton Worldwide, which owns Hampton Inn and other hotel brands, said the company was seeing "very strong bookings" for the coming holiday season, with demand "up significantly compared to previous years."
Airlines have kept the number of seats they fly about flat compared with a year ago. Yet demand has increased with a slowly improving economy and pent-up hunger among many consumers after several years of deferring trips.
"We continue to see travel come back after a few years of people pulling back," said Joe Megibow, vice president and general manager at Expedia.com.
On the whole, the average price on tickets bought at U.S. travel agencies, including online booking agencies, for Thanksgiving travel was up about 5% to $634, according to ARC. That includes international trips over Thanksgiving bought Jan. 1 through Oct. 21.
For Christmas, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is historically the busiest day for booking, according to Expedia. Black Friday and Cyber Monday see heavy ticket buying as well. Families solidify plans and attention turns to Christmas and New Year's. Orlando, Fla., is the No. 2 Christmas destination after New York. The Disney Grand Floridian resort costs $730 a night for Christmas week, and is sold out the weekend before New Year's.
But this year, a sleigh full of travel reservations have already been made. Christmas ticket sales through Oct. 21 were up 51% compared with the same period last year, ARC said. Some cities have shot way up. Tickets sold early for Christmas trips to Los Angeles, for example, have already surged by 55%.
As planes fill up, prices rise. The average ticket price sold so far for Christmas travel was up about 4% to $797, ARC said.
This year, Cancun, Mexico, has been a particularly hot destination for Christmas and New Year's travelers. Average hotel rates are up 12% to $408, Orbitz says. (Cancun prices usually include food and drink). Through Oct. 21, Cancun was the fourth most-booked destination at U.S. travel agencies, including online travel sellers, according to ARC. Last year in the same period it was No. 5. Total passengers booked for Christmas travel there was up nearly 40%.
"Cancun's hotels have seen an increase in early reservations this year, and especially for the month of December. We've also noticed an increase in hotel room rates," said Jesús Almaguer, chief executive of the Cancun Convention and Visitors Bureau.
One reason: The Mayan calendar ends on Dec. 21 or 12/21/12. Cancun, home to Mayan ruins, has many parties planned to celebrate what some had predicted as the end of the world -- or the start of a new era.
For procrastinators still thinking about booking a Thanksgiving trip, experts say you're more likely to find last-minute bargains to fill empty seats on short trips rather than long flights. Mr. Megibow at Expedia said there may be deals to be had on short flights into big airline hubs such as Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia and Dallas. "There's still some opportunity to beat the market," he said.
(Source: The Wall Street Journal, 11/09/12)
Daily Sales Tip: Sales Prospecting in Two Easy Steps
The number one issue people have in sales is sales prospecting -- trying to find new customers.
I think it ranks ahead of closing, negotiating and every other part of the sales process.
With that said let me break down into two easy steps everything I've ever taught others or done myself with regard to sales prospecting.
Step 1: Pick up the phone and make the call.
Step 2: Engage the prospect.
That's it. The reason I say these are the only two steps is for one simple reason: The vast majority of salespeople don't do it.
Let's look at the first step. Far too many salespeople think they can use email to do everything a phone call does. Sorry, emails are a great tool, but I will contend the phone is still a better tool than email. The reason people will say they prefer email is because nobody answers their phone. Agreed, but if people don't respond to phone calls, what makes you think they will respond to an email?
Email is a great prospecting tool, but only when it is used as a tool. Don't use it as your only prospecting tool. Yes, telephone calls can be draining and they can feel like they don't go anywhere, but all it takes is a couple of calls to go right for everything to change.
You'll never know if a phone call could go right until you make it.
The second step is engaging the customer. Yes, that means having a conversation with them. Again, I find too many salespeople using their telephone time to speak stupid sales talk. It's not about you. It's about the customer. When you begin to realize the importance of the customer's own time and how it's more valuable than yours, then you can begin to see why they couldn't care less about talking to you if it's all about you.
Engage the customer with what is important to them.
There it is: Sales prospecting in two easy steps. Pick up the phone and make the call and engage the customer on what's important to them.
Source: Sales trainer/consultant Mark Hunter