It is still  three weeks until Christmas and the feeding frenzy of holiday season sales is reaching a fever pitch. But at what cost are these endless promotions affecting customer and employee experience?


This past weekend, a growing number of major merchants pushed the start of their “Black Friday sales” earlier into the heart of Thanksgiving Day. Those who opened their doors at 5 or 6 p.m. (rather than midnight or 8 p.m.) that day included Best Buy, Target, JC Penney Toys R Us and Walmart.


But as the dust settled on Thanksgiving weekend, U.S. consumer spending fell 11 percent from the same period last year, according to a New York Times news report. Officials at the National Retail Federation speculated that the drop in sales could be due to shoppers who had already done a lot of buying online earlier in the week.


If that premise is correct, it reaffirms my contention that consumers have only so many dollars to spend for the holidays and no amount of sales and promotions are going to change that.


However, Black Friday door-buster sales brought out the worst in people as near-riots broke out at some Walmart stores across the nation when shoppers literally fought to get a limited number of 50 inch flat-screen TVs priced at $200 apiece. What kind of impact do these kind of incidents have on customer and employee experience?


What’s clear is many retailers don’t understand consumers anymore because they are so busy pushing products and services with an endless stream of “white sales” that are undermining brand preference and the underlying culture of customer loyalty. These sales don’t encourage loyalty, they only encourage consumers to jump around for the best deals.


We have lost touch with the inner spirit of what drives customers. In turn, we are undermining the concept of value and have lost a certain deep, unconscious joy of the holiday season that is nearly eradicated by many over-the-top retailers.


Meanwhile, extended store hours are going to once again test the resiliency of retail workers. With many stores stretching their closing times to 11 p.m. or even to midnight on some days, employee burnout will be a real concern. Many sales clerks will struggle to stay fresh enough to adequately provide a great shopping experience for customers amidst the stress and pressure of the season.


This holiday season, it’s not the endless door-buster sales or other promotional gimmicks that will win over consumers and yield them the strongest sales; it will be those retailers who connect with the emotions and subconscious thought of their customers.


The winning merchants this holiday season will be those who understand how customers feel about themselves when they do business with them.  It will be about knowing how to delight customers and create positive, memorable experiences for them that having staying power.


It will be those merchants who base their businesses on “sensing and responding” to consumer needs and wants rather than simply being purveyors of “make and sell” merchandising.


In conclusion, my hope is that the retail community can help to take the stress out of the holiday season, not add to it. Those retailers who help create positive experiences for customers will not only win for this season but all year long and beyond.


If you would like to discuss this subject further or would like to find out how you can connect with customers on a deeper level, I would love to hear from you. You can reach me at me at or 952-942-8880.