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REI, Black Friday and Sports Planners: The Common Thread

18 Nov, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The decision of outdoor sporting good giant REI to close on Black Friday has been hailed as (choose one) the most altruistic decision, or the greatest gimmick, in retail history.  And since there is plenty of evidence that consumers have been plastering the #optoutside hashtag all over social media, perhaps it doesn’t matter which side of the fence you come down on. REI has a big one in the win column.

But what is in the decision for sports planners? Five interesting insights, for those who care to examine the decision more closely:

It’s an opportunity for sports: Already local event organizers have announced Black Friday and Thanksgiving weekend 5K runs, golf tournaments and more. (Even US Youth Soccer has announced the schedules for its boys’ and girls’ ODP Thanksgiving Interregionals.) It’s a logical choice: People are already planning to be home, and many will welcome an opportunity for activity after the gorge-fest the day before. REI’s move only means more people will be willing to participate in sports events (and yes, to check in and hashtag them on social media.)

Fewer people are going to be shopping: Research done by Google suggests that Black Friday ‘shopping moments’ online will replace the mall marathons, thanks to smartphones. Some 61% of shoppers have already begun researching their purchases before Thanksgiving weekend -- up 17% from 2014. And a huge number of people will (no surprise) make and pay for their purchases via their mobile devices. In fact, the amount of money spent in stores on Black Friday has fallen ever since 2012, and researchers have every reason to expect the trend to continue. So that frees up people to participate in sports.

November is presenting one of the greatest opportunities for sports promotion of all time: Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday fall in November in 2015, the first time this has happened since 2012. For those who are planning to present holiday-themed sports events, sales experts have noted this is a prime opportunity for e-mail marketers to promote events and take advantage of holiday-minded consumers eager to commit to those events. In other words, start promoting. Now. Even if you’re promoting a New Year’s resolution run or something later in the 2016 calendar, if you can plug a seasonal slant into that (maybe a holiday discount on registration), your event is going to be noticed.

The hot gift is the wearable fitness device: The Sports and Fitness Industry Association quoted a recent report by Mind Commerce that says sales of wearables in sports and fitness alone will reach $9.4 billion globally by 2020 with a CAGR of 103%. Sports planners can leverage this growth by making sure their marketing materials reflect the ability for people to use these devices at events, particularly in the new year. REI’s announcement has virtually ensured that people who are using those devices will be hashtagging the #optoutside and posting on social media all day while they do it. Sports planners can get their events in on the act early.

Those who are shopping want to buy local: According to experts at the State University of New York-Buffalo, the chain stores are losing their allure in favor of small local businesses. In fact, there’s even a day for it: Small Business Saturday, and the hashtags of #smallbiz, #smallbusiness and #shoplocal. Sports planners can leverage this by partnering with local businesses (independent ski stores, golf pro shops, tennis stores and more). For example, having a race packet pickup at a local running store can bring foot traffic and business into those stores and can lead to joint ventures with sports events down the road.

While REI has said their move is an experiment this year, the positive reception it has received is almost sure to bring it back for Black Fridays to come. And since other stores, particularly outdoor retailers, have jumped on the bandwagon, you can count on the ‘Black Friday Blackout’ to continue. According to Deloitte’s survey of consumers, nearly half consumers no longer rely on Black Friday for shopping and deals the way they once did. And 43 percent of respondents plan to do most of their holiday shopping in December.

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