Macy’s: A leading brand becomes a follower

October 21, 2013

Knowing that I was next on the schedule for writing a blog, I was wracking my brain trying to identify a topic of interest. And then there it was on my desk staring right at me —“Macy’s to open on Thanksgiving for the first time.”

After getting over the initial shock of reading this headline and my immediate reaction of “No way, how can Macy’s succumb to the likeness of Walmart, Kmart, Sears, and yes, even Target?” I immediately knew that I now had my blog topic. You see for me Macy’s is all about family traditions, especially on Thanksgiving — prepping the turkey and all its trimmings, readying the fireplace for that first fire of the season, anxiously awaiting the arrival of family and friends and, yes, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. Thanksgiving and Macy’s go hand in hand. Thanksgiving represents connections and reconnections; it represents the start of the holiday season, but not quite yet the actual hustle and bustle of shopping. It’s anything but that.

Macy’s, feeling the pressure to get a jumpstart on Black Friday sales in order to compete with the other bricks and mortar retailers that have also proclaimed early openings, has decided to open at 8PM or four hours earlier this year. You can argue that last year’s midnight opening was somewhat acceptable in that it at least gave families, even those members who had to work, the entire day to celebrate Thanksgiving their way without traditions and schedules being dictated by their employers. And the retailers even had the ingenious idea of creating pre-hype and much social media buzz by marketing the 12:01 AM opening as offering customers the ability to experience the “thrill” of shopping at 12:01 (which technically is Black Friday and not Thanksgiving Day), keeping families together even longer as many planned their midnight excursions.

What is surprising to me about all of this is that a leading brand like Macy’s finds it necessary to be a follower rather than bucking the trend and taking a leadership position. What is even more puzzling is the fact that Macy’s, a premium brand, is allowing the lower tier retail brands to compromise the image and values of the Macy’s brand. Why not use this as an opportunity to create a PR and social media campaign proclaiming the real “magic” of Macy’s — an active supporter of family values and traditions — to elevate the perception of the Macy’s brand?

May I suggest that instead of opening 4 hours earlier consider building upon last year’s successful midnight holiday shopping kick-off? Develop even more hype and valuable discount promotions to entice shoppers to come out in droves at midnight versus infringing upon people’s invaluable “family” time. While four hours may not seem like much, the difference between 8PM and midnight could mean the difference as to whether or not families choose to gather around the table for a second round of turkey and stuffing, to share more stories while routing for their favorite football teams or to play cards or take in another round of charades or Pictionary.

I truly believe that if Macy’s resisted the pressure to open early and remained true to its brand and its 155-year tradition of being closed on Thanksgiving Day, the Macy’s brand would shine in the eyes of many shoppers and non-shoppers alike and be an ultimate winner. By taking a strong stance against the earlier opening and using it as an opportunity to reinforce its brand values, Macy’s could have stood out for all the right reasons. Instead by joining the retail pack, Macy’s risks denigrating its brand image among those shoppers who are opposed to the Thanksgiving opening. And for those shoppers who really don’t care, the Macy’s brand will just blend in with all the other retailers offering hefty pre-Black Friday discounts. And let’s face the inevitable. Next year retailers will be open all day on Thanksgiving Day, thus really shattering my Normal Rockwell image of what Thanksgiving is all about.

What are your thoughts about the impact the early Thanksgiving opening can have on the Macy’s brand?

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