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The weekend after Thanksgiving is typically one of the busiest sales events for auto dealerships — but it doesn't have to be. What if dealerships followed suit with the outdoors retailer REI and opted out of opening on Black Friday?
You might be thinking I’m crazy, but stay with me as I explain why opting-out could be the future of holiday marketing for automotive dealerships.
The Proof Is In the Pumpkin Pie (…or data)
REI isn't as reliant on holiday sales as other big box stores or auto dealerships. Doesn’t a steady flow of revenue regardless of holiday sales sound great? I can't imagine an auto dealer who would say no to that question, but unfortunately, dealerships have yet to adopt a business model that produces consistent revenue.
Just about every major U.S. holiday succumbs to exploitation by sales — including big-time incentives pushed by the auto industry. And it’s not even the dealership’s fault. Auto marketers have largely reacted to what everyone else is doing and what has traditionally worked.
But what would happen if dealerships shifted toward an REI mindset rather than a Macy’s mindset? Stores like Macy’s, JCPenney, Best Buy, and Walmart operate in the red for most of the year until Black Friday rolls around, hence the name.
Instead of following big box store business models that wait around for holiday sales, I propose that dealerships follow a different business model like REI. After all, REI is killing it year over year compared to S&P 500 retailers.
The Changing Consumer
REI is rarely the lowest price option, and clearly, they are not the option with the best holiday hours, yet its customer base keeps growing.
Today’s consumer has different values than the consumer of 2008. A Bloomberg article stated it perfectly, “The perception that a brand is progressive goes a long way with the new buyers.”
Brand perception of both the car and the dealership is crucial. As many dealerships already know, competing on price is a dying concept. Consumers have all the information they need in the palm of their hands. They know if they are getting the lowest price possible within a 50-mile radius.
Low prices are the primary message for holiday sales, but low prices are no longer essential to a strong business model.
The Key to Brand Perception
Which brand do you respect more: a brand that makes its employees leave Thanksgiving dinner early to open the store’s doors, or a brand that gives its employees the holiday off to enjoy time with family and friends?
Employees can be your best advertisements or they can be your worst nightmare. Employees are the bedrock of any successful business model so keeping them happy and healthy should be a top priority for dealers.
If the previous paragraphs didn’t already tip you off, I am not a Baby Boomer. I am a Millennial. While it will take Millennials another 4 to 5 years to match the buying power of the Baby Boomer generation, Millennials will be the primary car buyers for the rest of the 21st century.
All the more reason to start rethinking your dealership business model. As consumers change so must your dealership. REI might seem extreme today, but they could easily be the new normal in the years to come.
Photo Credit: tumblr.ifc.com