3 Black Friday Lessons from Nordstrom, Costco and REI

Cyber Monday will soon be is upon us. Are you planning on shopping then? Will you be part of the crowd shopping on Thanksgiving Day? As #BlackFriday has evolved from simply a single day to an entire shopping season, retailers are operating more hours to compete with the 24/7 Internet. Not all retailers caved to this pressure, though. Three of the world’s most respected retailers don’t open on Thanksgiving, or even promote Black Friday deals at all. Why do Nordstrom, Costco, and REI ignore these trends? Let’s discuss three lessons we can learn from them.

Why do Nordstrom, Costco, and REI ignore Black Friday?

Lesson #1 – the three companies know exactly who their customers really are

  • Nordstrom knows their customers want great clothes and they don’t mind spending loads of money to get them.
  • Costco knows their customers don’t want to make decisions. They provide warehouse prices on a very limited selection of each product. Need toothpaste? Here are a couple of kinds available. Costco provides quality products at the right price, and their customers trust them to make those decisions on their behalf.

  • REI wants everyone (including their employees) to simply enjoy the outdoors.

If you consider the target customers for all of these companies, none of these customers are shopping solely based on price. It’s a consideration, of course, but people shop at these stores because of how it makes them feel. Black Friday promotions simply wouldn’t enhance the loyalty of their target customers.

Lesson #2 – when you provide fanatical customer service, your customers love you

An overarching theme of each store – if you buy ANYTHING, just return it if you’re dissatisfied, period. An old Nordstrom story says an employee processed a return on tire chains, even though they don’t even sell them. What happens as a result of these policies? Customers never fear making the incorrect buying decision. If you don’t want what you bought, just return it.

A more common phrase of a Costco customer than “I like Costco” is “I LOVE Costco.” By earning the adoration of their customers, Costco, Nordstrom and REI have earned the right to skip Black Friday altogether.

Lesson #3 – the three companies treat their employees as their best asset

It’s no accident these three companies all appear in the Top 5 on the Forbes Magazine Best Places to Work in Retail in 2015. REI is #1, followed by Costco at #3 and Nordstrom at #4.

By allowing their employees to spend Thanksgiving with their families and opening at normal hours on Black Friday, Nordstrom and Costco sent a message to both their customers and staff: YOU are more important than Black Friday.

REI took this idea to another level entirely. Calling the idea #OptOutside, REI told their employees they would receive Black Friday off (with pay) to enjoy the outdoors.

In a word, what can sum up these three companies? Culture. Costco, Nordstrom, and REI have consistently promoted these ideals since they’ve been founded, and regardless of the latest trends, they continue to attract and enhance their relationships with their target customers.

What lessons have you learned from this year’s Black Friday? Do you agree with the analysis on these three companies?

Spencer X Smith

Spencer helps you save time through teaching digital marketing and social media strategies in plain English, after proving they actually work for himself first. He also is an instructor at the University of Wisconsin and a columnist for InBusiness.

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