The first thing I was asked when I walked in to the office this week was “What did you buy on Black Friday?” I remained sheepishly quiet as each of my colleagues regaled us with tales of their bargains and deals, whether it was a new coat for themselves or Christmas presents for friends and family. “At least I still have Cyber Monday to catch up” I thought to myself.
Over the past few years, the UK has imported Black Friday and Cyber Monday from the US. These two shopping days fall on the first Friday and Monday after Thanksgiving and they see retailers slash prices as consumers begin to ramp up their shopping ahead of the holiday season. Black Friday hit the press in 2014, after fights broke out in stores that offered savings on big ticket items. As a result, many customers turned to online shopping in 2015.
It has been predicted that spending online would hit £1.07Bn on Black Friday this year, up from £810M last year. The big question to ask is: is this really sustainable? Some notable stores in the UK have refrained from partaking in the phenomenon this year. In my opinion this is going to be a trend in years to come. It isn’t to say that companies don’t experience sales volume uplifts; this is clear. However, the sales infrastructure for a lot of these businesses isn’t designed for single high volume days like Black Friday.
Aside from the clear hurdles such as ensuring stock availability and suitable sales staff, the ripples of Black Friday and Cyber Monday are seen by retailers in the weeks that follow, as impulse purchases are returned and items damaged during delivery are replaced. Above all, the biggest hurdle for most companies is around maintaining website continuity; as unresponsive pages will send social media in to overdrive and can cause short term revenue loss and long term reputational damage.
So what’s the alternative? Some retailers have stated that they will be running more frequent sales events throughout the year/quarter, which will flatten the peaks and troughs and achieve a similar outcome. Others are taking a completely different tact, with some high street book-shops aiming to bring in customers through spin off events such as “Civilised Saturday.”
And for some smaller businesses who cannot afford to drive down profit margins even further, they have taken a slightly more novel approach. My favourite is a clothing retailer who has said that they would donate 20% of their Black Friday sales to charity.
So while I didn’t partake in the shopping festivities over the last few days, I am looking forward to seeing how smaller innovative businesses can entice me into buying my gifts from them this holiday season.
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