American consumers spent $12.3 billion at brick-and-mortar stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday sales in 2013, according to CNN Money. That’s a lot of activity, and credit unions are taking note.
For the past five years, Service Credit Union ($2.34B; Portsmouth, NH) has opened its doors a little earlier on Black Friday to offer members its best deals of the year. Service merged with Salmon Falls Credit Union of Somersworth, NH, in 2008 and soon after adopted the smaller credit union’s Black Friday promotional strategy. This year Service’s holiday promotions including the following:
11% savings certificate with a three-month term, a $250 minimum, and a $1,000 maximum; limit one per member.
1.00% off standard rates for holiday personal loans.
$100 for opening a checking account with direct deposit; $25 to spend and $75 to save.
$10 off a newly opened student checking account.
No fees on Visa cash advances.
Free tote bags, ChapStick, and ice scrapers.
“The bundle is exclusive to Black Friday, meaning we don’t typically have this many promotions offered on one day,” says Lori Holmes, assistant vice president of marketing at Service Credit Union. “This is our biggest sale of the year.”
Members can only take advantage of the Black Friday specials if they visit a branch. The credit union opens early and schedules additional staff to handle increased traffic. Some branches delegate staff to handle certain transactions to further speed up the process. For members who can’t make it to the branch, Service offers the 11% certificate and 1.00% off standard personal loans on Cyber Monday as well.
To keep with the jovial mood of the holidays, Service creates a festive branch atmosphere and works to keep lines short and transactions quick.
“The tote bags are obviously in the same shopping spirit of Black Friday,” Holmes says. “And we offer coffee and donuts to our members.”
Black Friday at Service is a spirited way to give back to its members, but it’s also a productive business day for the New Hampshire credit union. According to Holmes, the institution typically sells approximately 2,000 of the 11% savings certificates, which is the most popular of the promotions.
“It’s pretty consistent year-to-year,” she says.
All of Service’s 39 branches participate in Black Friday and after five years of celebrating, the credit union’s members know it’s coming each year.
“Once you do an event like this for five or six years, members get used to it and know it is coming,” Holmes says.
Holmes sees Black Friday as an opportunity to give members a good deal around the holidays.
“We always tout credit unions as giving back in forms of higher dividends and lower rates on loans, and this is one day when members can plainly see what we’re doing,” she says. “We are giving back in the form of an extremely high interest rate certificate and obviously 1% off loans is substantial as well.”
The event is not just a way to give back to longtime Service members, it is also a way to introduce new members to the credit union.
This year and last year, Service estimates each Black Friday brought approximately 350 new members to the institution. But these members aren’t joining just for 1% loan discount and then never heard from again. The credit union has a 97% retention rate on new members who join on Black Friday.
“We have a high cross-sell rate with these members dating back to 2007 when we started this promotion,” Holmes says. “It’s beneficial to the credit union and the credit union’s population as a whole to get and keep new members.”
After five years of Black Fridays, Service has the event planned out pretty well. The credit union starts prepping staff in September with a webinar, a Q&A session, and instructions so there is no confusion once the big day hits.
“Start preparing early,” Holmes advises other credit union who are thinking of offering their own Black Friday promotions. “Keep your branch people informed as early as possible, do a training session, send out detailed instructions, and make sure they’re well educated when they’re in front of the member.”