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Expert Q & A

Does Black Friday Even Make Sense Anymore?

June 18, 2021
September 15, 2021
Mae Rice

Black Friday 2021 could be our most dysfunctional yet, thanks to clogged ports and limited manufacturing bandwidth. Could this be the end of BFCM? We asked Cart.com’s VP of Logistics, Jay Sauceda.

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Last year, we heard December holiday orders might get devoured by Shipaggedon.

This year, it’s even more extreme — it seems like Shipaggedon 2.0 might end BFCM as we know it. 

“The writing's been on the wall for [that weekend] for a long time anyway,” Jay Sauceda, VP of Logistics at Cart.com, told MarketerHire.

Here’s his breakdown of why. 

It fits mainstream shopping habits less and less. 

Plenty of people do their holiday shopping before Black Friday. 

In 2020, 26% of holiday shopping was done by early November, and 42% of American shoppers started shopping earlier than usual, according to the National Retail Federation

In 2018, more holiday shoppers wanted a great deal than a great selection, according to Deloitte data.

But the shift away from shopping Black Friday — with its great deals and volatile selection — suggests selection is growing more important. 

If you have a product in stock, discounting it doesn’t make sense this year.

This year, just having product available might be differentiator enough. 

Last year was different. Shipaggedon concerns swirled around last-mile delivery. 

But this year, the American supply chain is log-jammed higher up, due to shortages of:

  • Manufacturing bandwidth: Companies from Peloton to auto makers are scaling production up at the same time. But that infrastructure can take years to build, and it’s not easily transferable between industries. Or companies.
  • Port capacity: The Southern California ports are crowded. This year, the Port of Oakland faced “the largest, longest and most expensive backlog in the history of the port,” Mercury News reported.
  • Shipping containers: Too many idling at American ports!

If you have product on hand, it’s precious. To avoid missing sales targets due to lack of inventory, Sauceda has seen at least one major retailer raising prices. 

BFCM sales build a flywheel of demand — but it might be hard to meet in 2021.

The typical Black Friday playbook goes like this, Sauceda said:

  • Build audiences and enough demand for BFCM and beyond in fall
  • Sell discounted product during BFCM to customers who hype you up to their friends
  • Restock in early December
  • Sell full-price product until the holiday shipping deadline

That December restock isn’t guaranteed this year — so a splashy Black Friday sale could mean you sell your last dregs of holiday merchandise at a loss. 

Our takeaway? 

Before you launch any Black Friday promos, talk to the logistics team. 

“The operations and the marketing teams should be the best friends in any commerce organization,” Sauceda said. “Otherwise you can get caught with your pants down.”

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is senior editor at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she enjoys interviewing marketing experts and learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture. She also loves any ad that makes her say "Huh?!" — especially Tim and Eric's ad for Totino's pizza rolls, which she watches way more often than you would think.

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