Dec. 27, 2010 – Weighing the Black Friday impact

What are you guys thinking? It’s Black Friday, the biggest retail day in the whole year, and 5 percent of you metric dealers are CLOSED. Yeah. CLOSED. What? Out riding? Everybody else is ringin’ the cash registers like crazy, and your front door is locked? How does that work?
This is just one of the things I found as I looked at three Fridays:

  • Nov. 19, 2010, the Friday before Black Friday;
  • Nov. 26, 2010, Black Friday, the Friday after Thanksgiving; and
  • Dec. 3, 2010, the Friday after Black Friday.
    I wanted to see if there really was an effect for us as people crowd the malls and the big box stores. Did the same thing happen for the motorcycle industry? In years past I have looked at the change year over year for this day, but this time I wanted to see if this day is any different from other Fridays around it, and the answers are astonishing.
    First, the dealers that closed. I’m sure there has to be a reason for this, but I can’t figure it out. My sample size was 178 V-twin dealerships and 629 metric stores. Total parts sales for the group on these three days was $10 million, and all parts of the country were represented. Digging in, I quickly saw that 32 of the metric stores were closed. That’s 5 percent with the doors shut on Black Friday. V-twin was better, but still unexplainable: two dealers out of 178 that did not open. Call that 1 percent and we’ll let it slide. Maybe they were snowed out. Or something.
    But that is the first finding that gave me a real bad feeling about where this was going. And sure enough, there was more to come.
    On my first pass I added it all up and it looked like there was no difference between the three Fridays. Here’s what I saw (parts counter sales only. No units, no service.):

  • Friday the 19th: $3,058,000
  • Friday the 26th: $3,015,000
  • Friday, Dec. 3: $3,242,000
    Close enough to call it level, right? So the conclusion at that point was, Black Friday for us is no different than any other Friday. We are out of the game, and the big money is just for the mall guys.
    But then, I wondered what would happen if I separated the metric folks from the V-twin people? That’s when this thing started to get interesting.
    Look at the “The Black Friday Difference” chart on the left. The V-twin dealers jump from $916,000 to $1,249,000 between the 19th and the 26th. That is an increase of 36 percent for Black Friday. And it continues for the Friday, Dec. 3, when sales are still above the 19th by 16 percent. So, Black Friday is real for the V-twin side. What about metric?
    Look at the “The Black Friday Difference” chart on the right. And here is the greatest surprise of all. Metric actually falls 18 percent for the greatest retail day of the year. Yeah. Down. And then back to normal on Dec. 3. What is going on?
    Think about it. Don’t we all know that metric has simply not matured the gift side of their products as has the V-twin side? The Harley folks are lining up to get the cool stuff that Harley folks want, but over on the metric side, we don’t usually see four quarts of oil and two tie-downs under the Christmas tree. So, the metric people are driving past your store and on to the mall, while the V-twinners actually have the words “motorcycle stuff” on their lists — right next to names marked naughty or nice.
    OK. What else? How about overall up and down? How many? How much?
    Look at the “Black Friday Parts Sales” charts. Here we see that 36 percent of the V-twin shops are actually down from Nov. 19. Thirty-nine percent are up, as far as double, and an amazing 25 percent are more than double their sales back on the 19th. That’s big.
    Now, look at the metrics’ “Black Friday Parts Sales” chart. The first thing that jumps out is the 58 percent of stores that are down from the Friday before. More than half sell less on Black Friday than they did on the 19th. No wonder so many of them have simply gone riding on this day. But there are some metric shops that do fairly well. We see that 30 percent of dealers increased sales up to double, and 12 percent more than double the previous Friday. So while not as spectacular as on the V-twin side, we see that it can be done.
    Now, the kicker. What is possible? For both sides, how did the best of dealers do?
    Look at “The Top 10 Percent” charts. These are the top 10 percent of dealers for each side. The V-twin charts shows that among these movers and shakers, they collectively did $42,000 in sales on Friday the 19th. But on Black Friday, they pushed $230,000 in merchandise out the door. That’s more than five times the sales, and it’s not just a flash in the pan. On Friday, Dec. 3, they’re right back with another $116,000 in sales, almost triple what they did on the 19th.
    And, to their credit, look at what the top 10 percent of metrics did: Friday the 19th was a respectable $92,000, but they turned that to Black when on the 26th they moved $297,000. That’s almost triple. And they too keep it rolling with another $193,000 on Dec. 3.
    Now, this didn’t just happen. You can bet that there was a whole lot of prep and planning that went on in a whole lot of meetings to get this all together. Look closer here and I’m betting you will find Door Busters, special events, early door openings, web banners and much social networking going on. This took a lot of work. And it paid off handsomely.
    So, bottom line here, as always, we see a substantial difference between the V-twin world and the metric world. Black Friday for V-twin is up. Black Friday for metric is down. V-twin can get more than five times the sales on Black Friday that they had on the Friday before, and metric gets not quite three. Well more than half of metric stores are down on Black Friday, while two-thirds of V-twin are up. A lot.
    Good? Bad? Opportunity seized? Opportunity missed? All I can do is show you the numbers. But I will tell you this: If I still had my shops, I think that about August sometime, I would be sitting with my managers in many breakfast meetings and talking a long, long time about this thing called Black Friday. PSB

    Hal Ethington has been associated with the powersports industry for more than 30 years. Ethington is a senior analyst at ADP Lightspeed. He can be reached at

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