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Lisa Malin, Marketing Manager

The last Friday in November is now one of the most notorious shopping days of the year for retailers across the globe – Black Friday.

The unofficial start to the Christmas shopping season sees American retailers open their doors the day after Thanksgiving to record-breaking crowds. And while Black Friday has the power to turn a brands’ profit, it is also a challenging time when it comes to store management.

Retailers across the US – and increasingly the UK and other parts of the world where Black Friday is becoming a regular event – are planning the best ways to deal with the imminent buying frenzy and influx of shoppers.

Not only do they have to consider staffing and stocking, but customer safety too.

On any other day of the year, a store may be the perfect size to cope with customers. But on Black Friday, even the most organised and well-designed retail spaces can feel cluttered, crazy and claustrophobic.

Here are 10 tips for retailers preparing for Black Friday to help leverage sales and maximise the space in store; all whilst keeping customers and staff safe on what is set to be the busiest shopping day of the year.

1. Carefully considered opening times

Traditionally, US retailers opened their doors at 6am on Black Friday. More recently though, stores have opened as early as midnight. Walmart came under fire in 2012 for opening at 8pm on Thanksgiving, prompting walk outs from staff. The moral here is that retailers should consider their staff and customers; not just sales.

2. Prepare for the morning rush

Shoppers in the US – and increasingly in the UK – are camping out for the Black Friday shopping rush. Because of this, it can border on dangerous in the mornings when hundreds of people surge towards a store. Retailers should put plans in place to let people in store in an orderly fashion, and never fill the space past capacity.

3. Highlight Black Friday deals

The discounts and deals are what draw most customers to stores the day after Thanksgiving. With that in mind, retailers should make a conscious effort to highlight these deals as early on in the customer journey as possible. Using flexible POS displays is a simple and effective way to highlight key products, offers and deals.

4. Make merchandise accessible

While it can be tempting to fill a store to capacity in preparation for the big day, retailers should stop and think about their shoppers. On shopping holidays like Black Friday though, the volume of shoppers will be much higher than usual. Brands should carefully consider the layout and merchandising of their store to spread customers out, and make for a safe and shoppable store.

5. Rethink store layouts

At any other time of the year, creative store design can enhance a retail space no end. On Black Friday though, retailers should consider removing any unnecessary elements and rethinking the overall design of the store. Customers – and lots of them – should be able to move around the space, take a closer look at products, and find the checkouts easily.

6. Entice customers in store

While most retailers won’t struggle to boost footfall on Black Friday, it is worth thinking of additional ways to entice customers in store. There are a number of simple yet effective commercial interior design tricks that can do just this. Black Friday has the potential to be a hugely profitable day. It is vital brands do all they can to capitalise on this.

7. Maintain the shopping experience

It can be hard during peak times for retailers to keep up the levels of service and customer experience they normally display. But in order to boost dwell time and purchases on Black Friday, retailers should step up their game.

8. Expand the checkout space

Increased Black Friday footfall means one thing – longer queues. Most retail spaces can’t cope with the additional customers, making for a crowded and unpleasant space. This also means that some important stock can be blocked by queuing customers. Retailers should look at ways to extend their checkout space and, if possible, run checkouts by the store exit with lines moving away from the door. This will allow shoppers to keep browsing, and ensure customers who have purchased can make a swift exit.

9. In-line merchandising to boost sales

A longer line of customers can be a positive though; it opens up more opportunities for in-line merchandising. In order to prevent disgruntled customers, retailers should keep them entertained in the queue to avoid abandonment and bolster sales. This necessary distraction can help keep customers on side when standing in seemingly never-ending lines.

10. Clearly marked exits

Once customers have made a purchase, they will want to leave a store as quickly as possible and move on to the next one. Stores that are like mazes will simply not do on this busy shopping day. Instead, exits should be clearly marked and left unobstructed. Even those shoppers who don’t spend in store will appreciate this simple design feature.

Retailers don’t have to be in the US to make the most of Black Friday or these tips. For British retailers, this guidance can be followed on the Boxing Day sales for instance. By utilising these tips and making the relevant changes, it is possible to have a safe and profitable Black Friday.