#Black Friday Crowd Management

Thoughts on the shopping trend and the implications of crowd management




Black Friday; the latest shopping trend that is now making its way around the globe as retailers endeavour to capture the sales of what was until lately an American craze. Thanks to social media and mobile technology, this has now crossed borders and oceans to other continents.

So what is it; basically a sale.

Retailers reduce the price on certain items to drag customers into their shops in the hope that they will also buy other products.  It is an advertising campaign that has been picked up by retailers to boost sales, think along the lines of valentines cards, chocolate Easter eggs, Halloween costumes and of course Christmas ( you do all know Santa was an advertising campaign by Coca Cola, right? )

Multi national retailers are waging war to win your money. The best way to do that is to let you think you are saving money. It is up to you to decide if the products are worth the money. Thanks to the use of mobile technology and social media, isolated incident of customer disturbance (read into that desperation or greed) became a craze, the latest trend. People wanted to be part of what they seen on their computers or what the tabloid news was reporting on.

Over the course of the growing advertising campaign, there have been injuries, death, arrests, theft, violence and most importantly of all a massive advertising and PR campaign ( Is money not more important??). You may think I am being cynical, but look at it from a different point of view -The police shot a young man in Ferguson over a packet of cigarettes, but it seems acceptable to have a mass brawl in a shop over a TV.

Why is it acceptable? MONEY & PROFIT.

Retail giant’s make a fortune at this time of year and it can make or break their year; the golden quarter. This advertising assault is in the most, free to them. They are not losing money on the reduced items and they pick up additional sales when you are in the shop. They spend some money on adverts and point of sale, but mostly they let us build the hype over this, through social/media hype.

If a few of their branches have a fight or make it onto YouTube, they say sorry and we will try harder to control it next year. This could not be further from the truth. This has planted a seed in the minds of the viewer for the next year; that shop must have great saving, people were willing to fight over them.

If we relate this to a crowd, think of the manager of Frank Sinatra.  This was introduced to me though Mick Upton’s book “ From Rome to Rock N Roll” (if you have not read this book and call yourself a crowd manager , then hang your head in shame). Mr Sinatra’s manager paid members of the audience to scream during his live performances. This created a buzz about this rising star; he is that good the audience scream their approval.

Each year the shops deliver a small price reduction and they let customers do the rest. We are now at a time where, fights, crushing and general disorder are common place at these stores. It is rare to see the police step in through or the government enforce regulations that these sales must be conducted in an orderly manner. Why? Because it would kill all that free advertising and may impact on profit. If you control the sales, then the hype goes away, it is just another days shopping.

Customers are looking for the hype, the risk and anticipation of getting a bargain. They also have the element of danger, they may get in a fight, crushed, trampled on. It is an adrenaline rush. Think of it as why do people crowd surf? It is stupid, they can break their neck, hurt others, damage limbs……. but what a rush (YES, I crowd surf, even when I know better and I am now far too old for it).


Introduce the Crowd Manager

Well, we all think about it, how we would overcome this and put in control measures. I am glad to see so much effort and planning being thought about, just in case you get that call to assist. Years of looking after sporting events, concert, street events, and conferences have provided us with the tools and techniques to bring all this under control.

The phone will never ring.

Retailers do not want to curb this campaign.

After many years of January sales in the UK, retailers now employ crowd management companies to create an orderly ingress into their shops. This allows for a busy but comfortable shopping experience and through this customers can buy more. They also get the added bonus of a lovely big queue outside their store to draw the attention of passing trade (big queue means good deals, right?)

This shows that control measures can assist with sales and public safety. But “Black Friday” is about the opposite of this. I would suggest that it is going to take a major incident to sway the opinion of consumers and as such force the government to step in (think Bradford fire or Hillsbourgh).


So what can the crowd manager do?


For me it is about watching and learning. It teaches us a lot about human behaviour, group mentality, improved use of multimedia and how a media campaign can affect the audience (sorry customers).

Keep watching though and hopefully one day, everyone will come to their senses and maybe just shop online or any other day of the year.



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