Friday, November 23, 2007

Competitive Shopping

Rising Early, Not to Start The Turkey, But to Shop - Yet again, As Good As News must start with a confession. I never go to the store. As far as I'm concerned, shopping on-line is the reason Al Gore invented the Internet.

From this dispassionate perspective of complete ignorance, I've spotted a trend. Not only are Black Friday sales pushing into Thanksgiving Day, but the loss leaders, the limited supply super saver giant screen plasma TVs designed to generate long lines of desperate to be first shoppers, are discounted ever more deeply, promoted more heavily and utilized by more retailers in sales that start ever earlier. Early reports indicate the loss leaders are working. At K-Mart in West Orange, NJ the line waiting for a 6:30AM Thanksgiving Day opening stretched "all the way by Wendy's" said one shopper, "I was shocked." Another bought a 42 inch TV on Thanksgiving because she was daunted by the prospect of a "scrum" on Black Friday.

There is no end in sight for this escalation. As soon as more smart shoppers begin to beat the Friday scrum by shopping on Thanksgiving, some enterprising retailer will push the opening bell for the Thanksgiving sale gold rush up to Wednesday. The result may ultimately be even more stress and less Holiday family time for retail employees, lower profit margins for retailers, little real benefit for consumers who end up getting, or not getting, the same super deals a few days earlier.

What should we do? Let's recognize this for what it is - a contest. "Scrum" captured it perfectly. Sales already generate an occasional scuffle between shoppers vying for the last item, let's make those deep discounts on plasma TVs a prize that go to the strongest and swiftest, not just the earliest bird.

Organized by the producers of American Gladiator, the Shoppers' Steel Cage Death Match will begin immediately following the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first 10,00 shoppers in line (remember this extravaganza is covering all the Thanksgiving sales in the NY metro area)receive the chance to compete for their choice of giant screen TVs (male heavyweight decision), family room sofa and lounger set (couples tag team) and Santa's bag (ten minutes in FAO Schwarz to the families that win a race through an obstacle course with handicaps to adjust for age variation - did you really think As Good As News would throw children into a steel cage death match). The competition is televised on Fox as part of the NFL pregame and halftime show. Participating retailers put their sale items into a giant pool and winners pick which sale item they want to buy. If K-Mart has the best TV deals, then K-Mart gets the publicity from the male heavyweight champ, emerging bloodied and battered from the finals, telling the world he's shopping at K-Mart.

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