It’s not really Black Friday, but Black Friday Lite. Some of the country’s biggest retailers have chosen this weekend, just a day after the first day of Spring, to promote “Black Friday-like” pricing on a variety of products. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT) kicked off its promotion on Friday night and the deals will last through the weekend.
Other stores offering special weekend pricing are home improvement giants The Home Depot Inc. (HD) and Lowe’s Companies Inc. (LOW). In fact, this is virtually the home improvement stores’ real Black Friday weekend. Both Home Depot and Lowe’s hire thousands of seasonal employees for their Spring selling season, and just as the Thanksgiving-to-Christmas holiday season is a make or break for many retailers, this time of year really is make-or-break time for these two giants.
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The home improvement stores appear to have been promoting a Spring Black Friday sales event for several years now. Consumers associate the holiday Black Friday with big discounts, and the Spring version wants to extend that association.
It’s not easy, though, because discounts on Spring seasonal merchandise like patio furniture and barbeque grills are not likely to live up to the expectations that consumers have built up about Black Friday pricing. The stores can’t offer the new season’s patio furniture at a discount of 30% to 50% and have any hope of posting a positive margin and making any profit.
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Walmart, for example, in its press release announcing Spring Black Friday, said it would have more than 60 outdoor items on sale. That’s nothing like the number of items that would be on sale in the holiday season. Over-promoting the sale would probably lead to disappointed customers which is why we don’t see a strong tie-in with Black Friday.
The stores put out press releases so journalists will pick up the story and spread it around, but the stores’ advertising and promotion around the Spring event is definitely muted. They can’t afford to have it otherwise.