Amazon's Prime Day promises to be a big win, but not just for Amazon. The event intended to celebrate the retailer's 20th anniversary and grow Prime membership is really a better vehicle to launch something retailers have been wanting for a very long time: Christmas in July.
Prime Day began just after midnight on July 15, with new deals added every 10 minutes during the one-day event, exclusively for Prime members. Amazon is promoting "more deals than Black Friday."
Retailers have been trying to make Christmas in July happen for as long as I've covered retail, with little effect. The dog days of summer have proven especially daunting. This time between seasonal summer sales and back-to-school shopping leaves retailers vulnerable to slow sales and as victims of unpredictable weather.
This summer's unseasonably cool temperatures with violent storms in parts and draught in others isn't going to do a lot of chains any favors. But a shopping event the likes of Prime Day will.
"It will be interesting to see if Amazon can create a one-day event to rival the traditional Black Friday shopping extravaganza," John Pincott, senior VP Europe and global marketing at Shopatron told me via email. "It's impossible to miss the push they've made recently to expand the reach of their Prime membership, with television ads across multiple regions promoting their mid-year sale: 'Prime Day.'"
Already other retailers are piling on. Walmart is also cutting prices on items this week and Target has a Black Friday in July event, although that retailer has been running the summer sale for six years now.
"The whole Christmas in July thing is a retail phenomenon, not an Amazon one," said Gartner analyst David Smtih. "They won't be the first or the last."
While there is certainly an element of competition between the largest retailers in the United States, the combined effort may help create enough critical mass that shoppers will finally pay attention and spend.
Let's not forget that Prime Day and its now rapidly proliferating cousins have a great model: Alibaba's Singles Day.
Singles Day was born of a similar desire to create a Black Friday-type shopping event in China. In the absence of Thanksgiving and a lack of Christmas consumer behavior, China's largest online retailer hit a home run with Singles Day on November 11, 2014—raking in more than $8 billion in sales on a single day. Alibaba's Chinese rival JD.com hosted its own anniversary sale on June 18 and had more than 15 million orders placed in 24 hours.
"Amazon is taking a page out of the Alibaba playbook. Similar to Alibaba's Singles Day, Amazon is creating a shopping holiday for consumers. While brands might be eager to participate, they also need to be cautious," said Scott Heimes, CMO from global e-commerce provider, Digital River. "With this new event, Amazon is creating more reasons to take shoppers direct—capturing not only mindshare and wallets but also valuable customer insights and relationships."
Amazon provided a sneak peek at some of the items available on Prime Day and the list is heavy on proprietary Amazon brands including Kindle and Fire electronics and the Elements-branded household and baby items. But there is also a smattering of goods from national brands including Hoover and Bose, and as the sale unfolds, some may be fulfilled by retailers with shops on Amazon's site.
It's a sale that really will lift a lot of boats. -Laura