Imported into the UK from our American cousins, Black Friday is a bargain-filled shopping bonanza which kicks off the annual pre-Christmas retail frenzy. For retailers it can be both a blessing and a curse, offering the chance to boost profits – but at what cost?
What is Black Friday?
Annual retail holiday Black Friday falls the day after Thanksgiving in the US. In recent years it has become the biggest shopping day of the year in the UK too.
How did it start? And when did it come to Britain?
Though nobody really knows for sure how it got its name, retail folklore suggests it comes from the day marking when retailers go from being ‘in the red’ to ‘in the black’. Coined in the 1960s to kick off the Christmas shopping trading period, the day has recently been adopted by UK retailers after Amazon UK started offering deals in 2010 and Asda, which is owned by American giant Walmart, held its first Black Friday sale in 2013.
What does it mean for retailers?
On Black Friday, retailers are likely to see increased demand as shoppers come out in force – and they will be hoping for increased profits to match. However, experts say Black Friday sales do not necessarily make shoppers spend more, but they do spend earlier, shifting their festive spending to late November and early December rather than in the weeks immediately before Christmas. The Visa UK Expenditure Index showed that overall spending in 2015 increased by 2.1% in November compared with the same month in 2014, but spending in December rose by just 1%.
High street or online?
After previous years in which high street sales have descended into physical chaos, from stampedes to crowd crushes, internet shopping now tempts many people to bag their bargains online. Digital deals such as Amazon’s 2016 Black Friday Sale – starting a mega 13 days before the 25th November – can also draw people away from the high street. If you run a bricks-and-mortar shop, consider boosting your social media presence around this time of year to catch customers online and tempt them in. If you operate an eCommerce business, prepare by optimising your site for high volumes of traffic to check it can cope with demand to prevent crashes and disappointment.
What is the impact on small retailers?
Small retailers may well feel the pressure to capitalise on the holiday and take part in offering Black Friday deals, in order to compete with larger stores who can afford to offer big discounts on unsold stock. But watch out – the promise of ramping up footfall with those tempting red ‘sale’ signs may not balance out profit losses if your shop cannot viably afford to slash its prices.
How do I stand out as an independent retailer?
Whether or not you choose to participate in Black Friday, sales are not the be all and end all. In fact, more and more customers are turning their backs on large corporations in favour of supporting smaller, local businesses which can offer something much unique. Instead of copying large business, emphasise your products’ exclusivity and your personal service – you might just come out on top.