Quirky e-tailer Modcloth, now owned by Walmart, will power down its website on Black Friday and give its employees a day off to "spend the holiday as it should be spent, with family, friends and leftover pie," Modcloth said in a press release.
The site is also emphasizing donations to charity and inviting customers to nominate a community organizer they know using the hashtag #BlackFridayBreakup on Twitter or Instagram. Participants could win $4,500 to support their cause or project, the company said.
The retailer will start its Cyber Monday promotions early, with the site up and running a Cyber Weekend promotion starting Nov. 26 with 30% off deals and free shipping through Nov. 28th.
Modcloth is taking a page from REI's playbook. The outdoor gear retailer made waves a couple of years ago by shuttering stores on Black Friday to encourage its employees and customers to spend the day outside enjoying nature and post photos on the day with the hashtag #OptOutside.
"It was a high risk scenario," Laura Swapp, director of public affairs and marketing at REI, recently told Retail Dive of the Opt Outside campaign. But it was ultimately a decision, she said, that was good for its employees and one they hoped would resonate with the co-op’s customers. The campaign has been widely seen as an on-brand marketing success. And now others are catching on.
"It's easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays and we wanted to do something different and remind our community that this time of year is about friends, family and helping others in need," Modcloth's vice president and general merchandising manager Nicole Haase said in a statement.
The company’s press release on the event makes nary a mention of new owner Walmart, which is taking no such chances and will be open online and offline not only on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but also on Thanksgiving.
Stores opening on Thanksgiving is a relatively new phenomenon over the last few years, but several retailers have retreated from the idea as Americans increasingly view that as tainting a family-oriented holiday that is celebrated without regard to ethnicity, politics or creed. The vast majority of Americans — 84% — are against or indifferent to retailers opening on Thanksgiving, according to a study from holiday deals site BestBlackFriday.
Thanksgiving openings proliferated even as e-commerce sales have: Americans are expected to spend around $2.05 billion this year on that day online alone. Yet many big-box retailers are unlocking their doors, despite the negative sentiment.
"The backlash against stores opening on Thanksgiving is really affecting the medium-tier stores more," Best Black Friday co-owner Phil Dengler told Retail Dive in an email. "Shoe Carnival, Sears Hometown Store and Stein Mart will all be closed this year after being open last year, and it is likely due to pressure from both employees and unhappy customers. The major retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy and Target, have pretty much proven to be immune from any negative effects from the anti-Thanksgiving shopping crowd."
But being open on Thanksgiving is actually a symptom of a problem for retailers that goes beyond sales, cautions retail prophet Doug Stephens, author of "Reengineering Retail: The Future of Selling in a Post-Digital World." In an email to Retail Dive, he compared opening on the holiday to the use of a substance that may feel good but is hardly good for you. "Brands that have become addicted need more and more every year," he warned. "And like any addiction it takes courage and willpower to break it."
Stephens said opening on the day isn't necessary. "With Black Friday quickly becoming Black November, any sense of urgency to buy that shoppers might have had has all but vanished," he added. "The bottom line is that if your brand is so uninspiring ten months out of the year that you have to slash your prices, degrade your brand and abuse your employees in the last two months to make your numbers you’re dead already. You just don’t know it yet."