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The Battle of Black Friday

The Battle of Black Friday

Black Friday is an American tradition that follows Thanksgiving and marks the official start of the Christmas shopping period. The day is not only well-known as a time when retailers slash prices but also as the one day every year when the general public is sent mad by the urge to rush to the streets in order to get the best deal possible.  Over the last few years, this shopping sensation has bled into the British culture, as so many other Americanisms have done, with Wallmart-owned ASDA and online giant Amazon being some of the early adopters of this shopping trend in the UK. This year in particular retailers have clamoured to show off their Black Friday ‘deals’ and have all been in fierce competition to offer the best discounts around. Following this, nearly every single UK publication has compiled a ‘round up’ feature to help their readers search out the top shopping destinations that are taking part.

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This year, it has been reported by a number of media sources that the high street saw much less trade than expected on Black Friday with footfall across the UK down 9.6% when compared to 2014 (Springboard). Instead, shoppers chose online retailers in a bid to avoid the chaos that usually ensues on the high street due to the nature of the one-day-only sales. Despite this change, Black Friday has still seen an incredible reaction from the British public and already, Amazon has reported that Black Friday was its busiest UK day on record with more than 7.4m items sold, at a rate of around 86 a second.

The question is though, are sales like these damaging the retail industry rather than boosting it?

Retail Week recently announced that ASDA was planning to completely change their Black Friday strategy following the embarrassment of shoppers brawling over heavily discounted flat-screen TVs in its stores. Additionally, the Evening Standard reported research that showed Black Friday sales could be detrimental to a retailer’s reputation.  Despite articles like these though, it has become a clear expectation from the public that brands should offer discounts for Black Friday.

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In most cases though, it seems that Black Friday simply pulls sales forward rather than generating additional sales for retailers, moreover, the huge fluctuation in prices only alienates the customer and damages the brands reputation rather than enhancing it. In relation to this, John Lewis boss Andy Street has previously warned fellow retailers to minimise their Black Friday campaigns stating ‘It is not in the interests of retailers to continue to grow the pace of Black Friday at the expense of other weeks’.

The effect that Black Friday has had on the retail industry is seen in the change in shopping trends throughout the Christmas period. In the past footfall and sales slowly increase leading up to Christmas with the peak happening in the final few days before the shut down on the 25th, now, however, a wave has formed which sees an uplift in sales on Black Friday through to Cyber Monday and then a dip in December before a final peak just before Christmas Day. Very much a part of this change is Boxing Day which saw a 12.6% drop in footfall last year (Retail Week).

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Despite the negative reports, Black Friday continues to be a huge draw for the consumer and it would be a very brave retailer to completely remove themselves from the event. It’s clear though that questions have been raised on the overall success of Black Friday and it will be interesting to see if the weekend of flash-sales continues to grow in popularity next year.