Lessons on the importance of bringing Retail Theatre to savvy shoppers.

By Luke Sklar and Amber Hudson

Our recent commentary in the Globe and Mail got us thinking…

You’ve heard it before…Retail as Theatre:  it’s much more than just a room to show and sell products.  It’s about the drama, a compelling story to tell to today’s savvy shopper, the sets, the parts played by the sales associates, the thrill of a deal.

Reflecting back on the past week:  Brown Thursday, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday…I can’t help but feel like I showed up expecting to see a George Clooney movie and instead came face to face with Rodney Dangerfield:  cheap products, frantic crowds, deals on things you don’t want.  It was a bad joke.

Now, the most I participate in Black Friday is to watch the train wreck that is Wal Mart on Good Morning America.  But I was excited about Cyber Monday.  So I settled in for a little armchair shopping, opened a very exciting sounding email from a big Canadian shoe retailer and saw an offer for 15% off regularly priced merchandise and 30% off already reduced items, a.k.a. crap no one wants.  (Yawn) 15%!? That’s a regular Tuesday deal people.   I want deep, deep discounts on gorgeous footwear.  What I got was a total lunch bag let down, and the same old shoes on my feet.

Despite this, Cyber Monday fared well.  Black Friday, however, is turning into a short run flop.  Many retailers in the US started promotions earlier in November, denting Black Friday sales.  Shoppers are smart; they know they can get a deal before and after Black Friday, avoiding the crushing crowds in the process.   Case in point, I just saw an ad from Toys R Us for a huge one day sale on Wednesday.    Rather than provide great retail sizzle for shoppers, retailers are starting to look like the sad panhandlers out front of the theatre, begging for pennies from passersby.

So what’s the lesson?  If you’re going to bring the goods and create excitement and energy to your consumer, do so every single time they reach out for your brand.  Consumers have expectations, and they ain’t buying boring.