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Retail Expert Shares Top Black Friday Takeaways

Helen Fourtounis, Vice President, Solution Principal, at Aptos, has been a retail leader for more than 26 years. So, when she steps into a store, she’s acutely aware of everything going on at every level. In this blog post, she shares her first-hand experience from Black Friday 2023.

I took the plunge and went shopping for my first Black Friday and enlisted the help of my husband. In case it turned out to be a “start the car” shopping experience (IKEA commercial circa 2012), we filled up our YETI mugs with some brew at 6:00 am and hit the road.

Early shopping led to early insights

First stop, home improvement retailer. (It was my concession in order to get my “start the car” guy to come). Some great deals, some loss leaders to attract some people in the door, but quiet at 6:30 am and fully staffed. Sales associates said that there had been a small rush when the doors opened to get to some of those loss leaders but in and out and onto the next store.

Apparently, there’s a science to Black Friday shopping — snag the loss leader and onto the next.

Second notable takeaway was a significant array of the merchandise that was under lock and key. I questioned what that was like for them and their customers which led to a conversation about shrink and organized theft and how bold it’s been. They told me that they have been instructed by their corporate office that, if anything like that happens, they were to do nothing. No kidding.

This retailer is likely one of the “very large retail chains” mentioned in this article on ORC, Retailers have a crime problem. It’s in the numbers.

Scary stuff. But I can see where this type of store is ripe for the picking for criminals and because of that, they’ve put a lot of their merchandise under lock and key — although she did say that they still have had stolen whole pallets of merchandise under lock and key.

Back to the shopping experience — we scored and saved money and did not have to do self-serve checkout. Excellent experience.

A smooth omnichannel experience was in store

Second stop, discount department store. After some research this was the place to be for some of the Christmas gifts. The technology stuff here was under lock and key. Finding a sales associate to unlock some of this merchandise was a little more difficult. But we got the deal and in the color we wanted. Scored again.

We also did some extra deals shopping that required me to download the app and scan the coupons from within the app to get an additional discount at the register. It connected the instore experience to online. Maybe it’s because of where I work but connecting my instore experience to my online experience — it was pretty cool.

I continued to engage with this retailer on the app I had downloaded on Cyber Monday. The checkout process was quick, self-service was an option but there were significant staff there to help you if there were issues.

Long lines were light work

Last was a department store chain with great deals on all the brands the kids on the Christmas list pledge allegiance to. The deals were significant, and the checkout experience was quick and painless.

The line was halfway around the store, but all 14 registers were working with associates standing to get you to the next open register. What should have taken an hour to get through was done in 7 minutes.

We did need to download the app to get some of the discounts, again really cool, and received some of the company’s cash, to come back the next day and use. We did and spent some more of the money on Cyber Monday on my newly downloaded app.

The Black Friday 2023 Experience

My overall takeaways from the shopping experience: retail is alive and well, retailers are doing a great job unifying the experience between instore and online, retail is creatively getting their customers to engage with them in different ways even after they leave the store and Black Friday is the time to go shopping if you’re looking for deals.

Maybe not at 6:00 am and you probably don’t need to have a car waiting outside the store.