Industry / Marketing

Retail Expert: Shoppers Seeking Sales Have Manifested “Black October”


One of the best-known holiday events in retail is Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when people used to flock to the mall to do some post-dinner shopping. Now, that idea has shifted in 2022 to Black October—and stores everywhere need to pay attention, one consumer expert says.

Thanks to pandemic-related supply issues and consumer-spending pullback, more retailers, including Amazon, Target, and Walmart, have put together special October sales, giving rise to a new retail phenomenon called Black October, says Angeli Gianchandani, professor of marketing at the University of New Haven’s Pompea College of Business.

Gianchandani came up with the term Black October because she noticed so many stores creating marketing and discounts for shoppers this month, rather than waiting until November or Black Friday, which used to be the kickoff to the holiday shopping season. But that old tradition has slowly been dissipating for years now, with sales typically covering the whole month of November.

This year, the start of the holiday shopping season has been pushed back to after Labor Day but way before Halloween, Gianchandani says, so retailers of all kinds need to know how the landscape has changed and how to respond.

“What retailers need to do is communicate early and often,” says Gianchandani, who formerly worked for luxury brands including BMW, Polo Ralph Lauren, and DKNY.

Angelica Gianchandani
Retail expert Angeli Gianchandani says getting in contact with your consumer early and often will be key to ensuring you make the sale this holiday season, especially given how shoppers are going in early for values through what she’s calling “Black October” (photo courtesy of University of New Haven).

That means customizing your messages, creating savings and offers that appeal to your shopper, and using whatever data and technology you have to track that savvy consumer to give them a deal on the items they’re craving.

“You can’t let go of your customer. And that’s the key to all of it. It’s really knowing who your customer is and creating deep relationships with them or a personalized experience that meets their needs and excites them,” Gianchandani says.

Examples of a Black October mentality are all around. Target offered “Deal Days” Oct. 6–8. Amazon held its first “Early Access” Prime Days Oct. 11–12. Walmart countered with “Deals for Days.” One jeweler recently offered to her email list an early 25% discount on solid gold pieces, noting that “Black Friday is a month away, but our…solid gold heirloom pieces are made to order, taking between 2-4 weeks to craft by hand.”

Retail analysts are concerned these early sales will steal from regular events such as Cyber Monday, but generally retailers seem eager to get any sales, as U.S. consumers are expected to buy less for the holidays this year.

For example, global consulting firm AlixPartners has said it expects holiday sales will increase 4%–7%, which is a drop from 2021’s boost of 16%.

“Retailers have precious little leeway this holiday season and must get everything just right to end this difficult year on a happy note. Inflation-hit consumers are planning to spend less this year, which means holiday splurges may be harder to come by unless retailers deliver exactly what buyers want,” AlixPartners said on its blog.

So, why is this shift in the retail calendar happening so dramatically in 2022? The pandemic is a major factor, Gianchandani says, but it also has to do with the overall economic world we are living in because of inflation and other factors.

“It’s the macro environment that is changing the behaviors of how people shop,” Gianchandani says. “It’s culture, demographics, social trends, technology advancements, as well as the political and economic situation.”

This Black October concept also is happening because of omnichannel shopping habits, Gianchandani says. Before, but especially during, the pandemic, consumers got used to shopping online for everything. Now, they combine that online experience of research and shopping for goods with in-store experiences.

Add in the factor that they want their goods quickly, and you’ve got a situation where retailers are working harder and harder to meet those expectations of low-cost, on-time delivery, and lots of inventory. By pushing things back into October, retailers can ensure people get what they want when they want it and at the price they hope to pay, Gianchandani says.

Gianchandani says she recommends that luxury retailers such as jewelers who have physical stores create in-store events that they can advertise through email or on social media. Have customers come in for a coffee or wine experience. Give them beautiful cupcakes or cookies as you provide exclusive, private showings. These kinds of moments will appeal to consumers who want to hear from you and make them feel like they’re getting something special or an experience, Gianchandani says.

“Retailers really need to pivot and adapt to all of this shifting behavior and shifting patterns,” Gianchandani says.

Top: Holiday shoppers are seeking more value and earlier sales because retailers are offering October deals, says retail expert Angeli Gianchandani (photo: Getty Images). 

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Karen Dybis

By: Karen Dybis

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