Sam’s restores sanity to Black Friday

Sam’s Club’s decision to open at 7 a.m. on Black Friday is a definite "swim upstream" move on the part of the warehouse club operator given retail industry trends and Walmart’s decision to offer its Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving.

"Swim upstream," is one of those references to Walmart culture that basically means doing the opposite of your competitors. So when Sam’s said it wouldn’t open until 7 a.m. the reaction was one of shock because for the past decade retailers have sought to trump one another with earlier and earlier opening hours. At some point it was inevitable that the boundaries of Black Friday would give way and merge into Thanksgiving which is what happened last year and this year. Not at Sam’s.

"Our members pay a fee to shop in our clubs, so they expect a sensible, hassle-free holiday shopping experience alongside an exciting assortment of gifts at great prices. At Sam's Club, they'll find free breakfast, hot coffee and award-winning member service," said Sam’s EVP of operations Todd Harbaugh. "The Black Friday shopping experience is our annual 'thank you' to members, providing access to extraordinary prices, quality brands our members trust like Samsung, Dyson, and Vizio, and the assortment of gifts to bring cheer to all of our members' family and friends."

What a novel idea. At many retailers Black Friday is a grueling, unpleasant experience bubbling with hostility. In other words, pretty much the opposite of the romanticized notion of how many folks think Christmas should be. Besides, 7 a.m. is plenty early and Sam’s won’t be leaving money on the table because it didn’t open earlier or follow Walmart’s lead.

That’s because many shoppers approach Black Friday with the precision of a military exercise so if they are going to go to Sam’s there will be specific items on their list and they will have optimized the routing of store visits based on opening hours and items desired. Understanding this list-making behavior, Sam’s has already published its Black Friday deals and it is leveraging technology. Mobile shoppers can access Black Friday deals on-the-go through Sam's mobile app with new updates that include a holiday giftfinder and "how-to" videos and photo guides to tree trimming and home decor.  Members can also upload special holiday photos directly from their smartphone to the Sam's Club Photo Center.

After shoppers have endured the pre-dawn lunacy at other retail outlets they can hit their local Sam’s for a dose of sanity, free breakfast and Starbucks coffee. Or if they choose to sleep in, Cyberweek promotions kick in November 24 through December 2.





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