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 kicking off today.
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.
However, on July 15, an Adweek editor who lives in the New Jersey suburbs received a mailer from Wayfair about the sale, which promises four days of “thousands of epic deals” including holiday decor under $60, dining furniture up to 65% off, sofas and sectionals up to 70% off, and outdoor furniture up to 65% off.
When asked about its 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 messaging.
Delaney did not answer a question about the brand’s targeted demographic—specifically whether it is quietly targeting suburbanites.
As of July 19, the retailer has updated its website to reflect the sale, but there is no mention of Black Friday in July on its social channels. In fact, Wayfair has remained silent on Twitter since June 19 other than to respond to customer service queries.
Its online newsroom has also been fairly quiet. Since the employee walkout on June 26 protesting the company’s sale of furniture to be used in migrant camps on the border, Wayfair has added links to just three stories, including one from the Washington Post with the title “Custom wood kennels and memory foam beds: Welcome to the wild world of modern pet furniture.”
Employees involved in the walkout did not respond to multiple requests for comment.
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: 67% of brand mentions were negative. The most common emotions included disgust (11,400 posts) and anger (6,900 posts).
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, per Brandwatch data. Prior to that, the online conversation had been mostly positive. And, Brandwatch added, online outrage toward Wayfair had blown over by July 9.
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.
And Wayfair’s quietly promoted sale could suggest that’s what it is banking on now. Lai—and Forrester, more broadly—declined comment on Wayfair’s sale 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 customers 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.”