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Industry Summit: Panini's Black Friday Hobby Promotion Gets Mixed Results

The hobby's first Black Friday promotion, organized by Panini, resulted in a lot of additional sales for some dealers, while other wondered aloud why the same products were offered on Panini's website.

On Black Friday, Panini offered a wrapper redemption program with dealers across the country to get special packs of cards – mostly slower-moving product but still filled with autographs and other "hits." At the conclusion of that event, the folks behind the Industry Summit, held each year in the spring in Las Vegas, pooled various dealers to get their reaction from the big event. The findings are below.

Industry Summit retailers (those dealers who attend the Industry Summit and polled by Summit staff) had predictably strong reactions to Panini’s first-of-its-kind Black Friday trading card promotion, ranging from ecstatic to nonplussed.


Panini America created more than 20,000 promotional packs for Black Friday, providing independent hobby retailers with an innovative incentive to purchase and market slower-moving Panini releases. Analysts indicated the promotion generated more than $1.5 million in incremental hobby business, while an Industry Summit survey of hobby retailers generated the following key assessments:

Many retailers who invested in the promotion were wildly successful. Lou Brown (Grand Rapids, Mich.) reported his largest sales day ever. Chrissy Ames (Auburn, Maine) said she sold her entire inventory of Panini products. Mike Fruitman (Aurora, Colo.), rated it “six stars out of a possible five.’’

Online marketing
Retailers with strong e-mail marketing and social media assets experienced the most success, likely due to the short time window between program launch and execution. “By the time we received product and all the details about the promotion, we didn't really have enough time to advertise,’’ noted Bob Newton (Arcadia, Calif.).

New customers
Jeff DeGraw (Joliet, Ill.) had a line of customers waiting outside his shop for a 5 a.m. opening, including first-time buyers. “One of the best, if not the best, single-day promotion ever in our business,’’ DeGraw said.

Panini’s decision to make the Black Friday packs available via its e-commerce website raised some eyebrows. “As an Authorized Internet Retailer for Panini if the packs were going to be available online than they should have made them available to all of their on-line partners,’’ said Tom Fish of Blowout Cards.

The vast majority of survey respondents – including those critical of various facets of the Black Friday promotion – credited Panini executives for creating the first-ever hobby-focused Black Friday promotion, and indicated they would embrace an expanded program for 2012. A sampling of Industry Summit retailer comments:

Lou Brown, Grand Rapids, Mich.: “Black Friday was the single biggest day in our history. We opened at midnight and had over $6,000 in by 6 a.m. The Panini packs helped out quite a bit. We definitely did not bring in enough. I am as enthusiastic as ever for this holiday selling season.’’

Chrissy Ames, Auburn, Maine: “We sold out of all our Panini products in stock. It was great for a change to have something special to give to our loyal customers on Black Friday, and they were very pleased with the cards out of the special packs. We saw some great pulls.’’

Rick Rollar, Pigeon Forge, Tenn.: “Thanks to Panini for giving us something to help us compete with the big boys. My customers were appreciative and quite surprised by the quality of content in the bonus packs.’’

Tiny Imel, Cheyenne, Wyo.: “The Panini packs were a big hit. Once someone pulled the first autograph, all the guys started buying more packs and boxes to get more Black Friday packs. This was a great promotion.’’

Tom Fish, Sterling, Va: “Panini's Black Friday Promotion as I see it, could have only benefited the stores that participated. I think Panini did an excellent job at marketing the event and from what I've heard some of the Black Friday packs had great content. I was very surprised to learn that Panini’s website has hobby product for sale and that they offered Black Friday packs to consumers purchasing on the Panini site. As an Authorized Internet Retailer for Panini if the packs were going to be available on line than they should have made them available to all of their on-line partners. I am seeing more on the manufacturer side not just from Panini as it relates to 'direct sales.' This is certainly something that all retailers need to be aware of and concerned about.’’

Jeff DeGraw, Joliet, Ill.: “I thought the program was well done, it brought a lot of anticipation, excitement to our side on such a big shopping day. One problem: the store owners who did not follow the rules. To me this is a huge problem. This was supposed to be on Friday. Explain to me why on Tues/Wed there were the cards on eBay? I know Panini doesn't have that kind of control, but the distributers along with Panini need to find out who let these out early. Panini and the distributers put out a specific set of rules for these and they were not followed by all. There are no excuses for that!!! I applaud the store owners who did it the right way.’’

Steve Wilson, Waukegan, Ill.: “The Panini Black Friday packs did not go over as much as I thought they would. I would say they helped, definitely. I do hope they do it again and make an annual thing of it. I had some other sales going on that I think may have over shadowed the promotion.’’

Jim Bernardini, Burlingame, Calif.: “All in all I think the promotion went well for us and I'm sure we sold more Panini product with the promotion than we would have without it. The only thing some customers said that could have improved on the promotion would have been if the Black Friday cards were marked Black Friday so they would have been even more rare or sought after. The packs were searchable which is not good for future reference.’’

Scott Polsen, Wilmington, Del.: “I liked the idea of the promotion by Panini, but I didn't like the that in order to run the promotion, I had to buy more product and got no credit for previous purchases or not given notice to plan for the promotion. It did not create traffic.’’

Matt Wheeler, Watervliet, N.Y.: "I really cannot add much more to the fact that Panini on one hand offers out this promotion to move more unsold products, then offers these packs directly to consumers on their website? This is the same company that states that 2011 is the 'year of the hobby store?' "

Gary Mills, West Allis, Wis.: “The Black Friday promotion did not matter to me. The boxes I would have had to buy to run the promotion were Panini's worst products of the year. They found a way to try to get rid of boxes they were stuck with and maybe it worked for some stores, but not for me.’’

Bruce Parker, Amherst, N.H.: “The Panini Black Friday Pack giveaway along with a coupon for 20 percent off any one item in the store that I had attached to my newsletter helped drive my store sales on Black Friday. The store had a very good day and I gave away a lot of the Black Friday packs to customers who bought Panini products.’’

Mike Fruitman, Aurora, Colo.: “I can't tell you how nice it was not being able to sit at my computer and have to see what closeouts are going to online shoppers. We had enough packs to last for five hours and our sales have exceeded any Black Friday event I can remember. We still have 272 packs we are expecting to hit on Monday and have already started a waiting list for those who are buying Panini products.’’