- Walmart-owned grocer to scale back involvement in promotional frenzy
- Black Friday disruptive to trading and carries reputational risk
- Asda decision likely to encourage others to follow suit
Asda has radically rethought its Black Friday strategy and is likely to massively dial down its involvement in the promotional frenzy.
Bosses of the Walmart-owned grocery and general merchandise giant have decided to scale back participation because of the disruptive effect on trading patterns during the crucial golden quarter, and in the wake of embarrassment last year as shoppers fought over heavily discounted flatscreen TVs in its stores.
It is unlikely that Asda will entirely turn its back on Black Friday, which falls on November 27, but sources told Retail Week it would be much lower key and the prospect of chaos in stores would not be countenanced.
The decision by Asda, which along with etail giant Amazon was synonymous with the import of the US shopping extravaganza to this country, is likely to prompt sighs of relief as well as shock across retail.
It is likely to give other retailers licence to reduce the level of Black Friday discounting or even not to take part at all.
The arrival of Black Friday in the UK was greeted with dismay by many retailers because of the expectations of discounting ahead of Christmas it created among shoppers.
Last year the pattern of seasonal trading was distorted by the rush for deals, in many cases simply pulling forward sales rather than generating extra revenues. Websites collapsed under the strain of coping with demand.
Industry chiefs have warned ever since about the difficulties that accompany Black Friday.
Last month, Home Retail boss John Walden said: “Trading at Argos during this year’s important Christmas season seems less predictable than usual, as both retailers and customers determine whether to repeat last year’s unusual Black Friday patterns.”
And John Lewis boss Andy Street said earlier this year: “It is not in the industry’s interest to focus so much trade onto one day. You want more steady trade and obviously you want more of it at full price.”
Asda’s options for a much lower-key Black Friday this year may include a limited, online-only event to avoid a repeat of last year’s stampedes in stores, although there is currently no mention of Black Friday on the retailer’s website.
Or it might extend its cut-price deals across a longer period, dampening down the unprecedented morning rush of customers it experienced in 2014.
Black Friday this year is expected once again to generate intense consumer interest. Digital consultancy Salmon has forecast that Black Friday 2015 will become the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day.
An Asda spokesman declined to comment on Black Friday other than to say that it was “too soon” to say anything about its plans.