The Rise and Fall of British Black Friday
We Brits are known for our politeness, our fondness of queuing and our incredible ability to show absolute disgust with just a ‘tut’ under our breath. Yes, we are a very civilised nation. For the most part anyway. I say this because on Friday we will see the great people of our nation turn into rabid dogs, literally clawing their way through a crowd to get a TV they don’t really need, clothes they don’t really like and pointless items they’ll take back first thing Monday morning. Black Friday is not a UK tradition, it has been brought over from the land of freedom by Amazon (who else would it have been?) and has fought its way into our consciousness and our high street stores over the last few years.
However, though Black Friday rose at lightning speed, it may also be falling as quickly. This year it was announced that Wal-Mart owned Asda would not be participating in Black Friday this time around as video footage last year proved embarrassing for the superstore. Asda isn’t the only one opting out of Black Friday with the fashion equivalent to the bargain bucket Primark and high street fashion store Oasis also choosing to pull out of Black Friday. Many retailers are opting for online sales only to avoid damage to their reputation after the shocking scenes last year, and some are launching different initiatives that still mean customers save money in the long run, they just don’t have to elbow someone in the face to do so.
There is also the fact that it is still not proven that companies make more money by taking part in Black Friday. Although sales do spike, the vast majority of retailers then see a dip in sales in the lead up to Christmas, presumably because people have already done their Christmas shopping at a ridiculously low price. Many retailers will slash their prices and essentially erode their margins and therefore lose money. It doesn’t take Alan Sugar to work out that that’s not a good idea. The Chief Executive of Primark told Retail Week that “all it seemed to do was bring forward sale, so the week of Black Friday was good and then the following week was bad and if you average them together sales were fine”. Not only this, but the rush to grab a bargain last year led to people making an unusually large amount of returns. It has been reported that this year, UK retailers could lose £130m just from the return of items. If you add this onto the price of lost margins, cleaning and storing and the oversupply of stock which is estimated to amount to £50m totals at a potential £180m loss.
According to cityam.com, a third of major retailers think that Black Friday is unsustainable and unprofitable, as it disrupts the Christmas spending period, with retailers slashing prices when they should be selling products at full price. They also reported that 84% of shoppers say they will do their Black Friday shopping on Amazon, the internet giant that bought this wretched day over to the British Isles. Funny that. Of course, whenever you mention Amazon, you must mention individual stores, who are inevitably going to suffer when Black Friday comes around. Independently run shops simply cannot afford to cut their prices in an attempt to compete with Amazon.
If you are to partake in Black Friday, it should be noted that paramedics have issued a warning to shoppers that ‘fighting over a cut price TV is not worth risking your health’ as last year, North West Ambulance Service crews were called out to a number of reports being attacked and trampled. If you don’t want to be involved with the chaos that is Black Friday, bookshops across the country are taking part in ‘Civilised Saturday’ in which you can curl up in a comfy chair, a glass of champagne and afternoon tea at over 100 independent bookshops and some chains such as Waterstones and Foyles.
Is Black Friday here to stay? Most likely, as long as the retail giants such as Amazon are still around. However, other retailers have taken steps to tone down the madness by staggering their deals over a longer period of time or only doing deals online to stop the frenzy that we saw last year, so maybe we will take Black Friday and turn it into something more positive and less chaotic than it has been in recent years. You can get some really good deals this Friday, but they aren’t worth punching someone in the face.
feature image: NATIONAL PICTURES
PH Dan Jones