Wayfair Quietly Emerges After Migrant Camp Scandal with Black Friday in July Promo

Home goods retailer wades back into the summertime sale frenzy

Have Wayfair customers forgiven and/or forgotten? Wayfair
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Three weeks after it became persona non grata on the internet, Wayfair, the home goods retailer linked to children in cages, is quietly having a Black Friday in July sale.

Wayfair has kept a low profile since June 25, when its employees discovered the company sold $200,000 worth of furniture to a government contractor for use in one of the controversial migrant camps on the border. The next day, 500 Wayfair employees in Boston staged a walkout demanding the company cancel the sale; Wayfair declined, but did donate $100,000 to the Red Cross.

It seems the whole affair is now far enough in the rearview mirror for Wayfair to start returning to business as usual. Just nine days ago, a Wayfair spokesperson said the company had no plans for additional summertime discounts, unlike the 300 retailers piggybacking on Amazon’s Prime Day sale, according to savings site RetailMeNot.

But a recent Wayfair mailer that went out in New Jersey promised four days of “thousands of epic deals.”

wayfair black friday in july sale banner migrant camp scandal

When asked about the company’s apparent change of heart, spokeswoman Molly Delaney wrote in an email, “We have a regular cadence of sales events and promotions on the calendar all throughout the year.”

Her only response to the timing was, “We had nothing additional planned in relation to Prime Day.” A spokesperson for RetailMeNot, however, said a promotion like Wayfair’s Black Friday in July would be included in its Prime Day piggyback count, which tracks any retailer offering sales with “Black Friday,” “cyber” or “Prime” in its messaging.

Delaney declined to say whether the brand is targeting suburbanites.

As of July 19, only the retailer’s website mentions the sale—there have been no posts about Black Friday in July on its social channels. In fact, Wayfair has remained silent on Twitter since June 19 other than responding to customer service queries.

Kellan Terry, senior manager of communications at Brandwatch, said the online conversation about Wayfair turned extremely negative on June 25, the day before the walkout. From June 25-27, the hashtag #WayfairWalkout was used nearly 113,000 times with a peak of 71,000 the day before the protest action.

According to Anjali Lai, senior analyst at research firm Forrester, it’s not uncommon to see consumers get riled up on social media, only to have the anger quickly fizzle out. “Many times, the volume and intensity of the sentiment don’t correlate to subsequent behavior,” she said.

Wayfair’s quiet promotion of the sale could suggest that’s what it’s banking on. Lai—and Forrester, more broadly—declined to comment Wayfair’s tactics because they do not have access the retailer’s marketing plan.

Previously, however, Forrester said Wayfair customers are older and more educated, affluent and tech-savvy than the U.S. population overall. The research firm said these customers seek out information about companies and are “deeply motivated to ensure that they are doing business with the best option available to them.”

Time will tell if customers were appeased by Wayfair’s donation to the Red Cross. In the meantime, however, the retailer will release its Q2 results Aug. 1, which should give a better picture of customer sentiment.

“I posit that if they took a real stance, they would be able to do whatever they wanted on whatever channels they wanted,” said Gary Nix, founder and chief strategist at consulting firm Brandarchist. “All of this appears as if they are laying low, [and] I don’t know whether or not that is best for business.”

@lisalacy lisa.lacy@adweek.com Lisa Lacy is a senior writer at Adweek, where she focuses on retail and the growing reach of Amazon.
Publish date: July 19, 2019 https://stage.adweek.com/retail/wayfair-quietly-emerges-after-migrant-camp-scandal-with-black-friday-in-july-promo/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT