The online horror T-shirt retailer usually looks forward to Black Friday as its biggest money-maker of the year, but its online sales have increased exponentially in the last couple years, making it harder for Fright-Rags to find items to discount for the annual holiday sale. But it's a good problem to have, CEO Ben Scrivens tells Digital Commerce 360.

Halloween season is never over for online horror movie T-shirt retailer Fright-Rags and its shoppers. The retailer does the most sales of the year from September through November but it has an enthusiastic fanbase throughout the year, says CEO Ben Scrivens.

Like most other online retailers, Fright-Rags has a sale that runs from Black Friday through Cyber Monday that attracts its loyal customers. A couple of years ago, it created a flier that resembled a Toys R Us flier—it even used the same typeface but with “Fright-Rags” in place of Toys R Us. “We always try to make it a fun, themed type of sale and try to make it stick in customers’ minds more than just Black Friday,” Scrivens says.

For its Black Friday through Cyber Monday sale, it generally discounts newer items at around 10% and then other items, such as overstock products and older inventory, from 30-45% off, he says.

The last couple of years, however, haven’t been typical for Fright-Rags. Black Friday has always been Fright-Rags’ biggest money-making day of the year, but its annual online sales have increased exponentially in the last couple of years, Scrivens says without revealing details.

“We haven’t had a lot of stuff to put on sale because we sell through a lot of our inventory at retail price,” Scrivens said. “It’s a good problem to have.”

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To prepare for the sale this year, Fright-Rags ordered move inventory, including a handful of highly requested T-shirts, instead of relying on discounting older inventory.

“Normally, we wouldn’t add anything to the site but we’re bringing back some items just to discount them for Black Friday,” Scrivens says. “We wanted to fill out the site a bit more. I know that stuff will sell out quickly but at least it gives people the option to try to get them at a discount.”

Previously on Black Friday, Fright-Rags would create a mystery grab bag for $9—its T-shirts are $28—with shirts that didn’t sell well in random sizes. But to do that again would mean it needs inventory, which it hasn’t had much of.

“We can sell a couple thousand shirts in a day doing that, but the last year-and-a-half, we haven’t had any product to do that,” Scrivens says.

While there won’t be a grab bag this year, Fright-Rags plans to discount its new, returning merchandise at 10% off and the older, overstock items at 30-45% off.

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The bonus of doing well in online sales throughout the years means Fright-Rags no longer needs to lean on Black Friday for sales.

“As long as we can do regular releases throughout the year where they sell so well, I’m not relying on Black Friday as much anymore,” Scriven says. “And we’re lucky in that we’ve never been in a position where Black Friday saves the year for us.”

To prepare its shoppers for the sale, Fright-Rags sends out an email and text about a week in advance to let them know the Black Friday sale is coming. This is a lot later to start holiday marketing compared with other retailers. A recent Digital Commerce 360 of 100 merchants found that 59% of retailers started their 2021 holiday marketing campaigns in October or earlier.

When the retailer’s sale starts at midnight, the T-shirt retailer sends out an email and text, then sends them again eight hours later to bring itself to the top of consumers’ inboxes, Scrivens says. Typically, the first two hours of its Black Friday sale are the busiest.

Any additional communications are segmented by customer for size preference, style preference and other factors in its customer database. “We’ll send an email that says, ‘Hey, we have all these mediums left, come look at these,’” Scrivens says. “We don’t want people clicking through all these shirts unable to find things in their size and getting disappointed.”

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