They say when America sneezes, Britain catches a cold. In the case of the Black Friday bug we’ve picked up from across the pond, the diagnosis could be worse.
In the US, the Sales frenzy makes perfect sense.
Black Friday – the day immediately following Thanksgiving – is not only a public holiday, but the day many retailers have traditionally started making their profit for the year.
Businesses sell a select proportion of their products at a slim – oftentimes negative – margin to kick off a Christmas spending spree, driving footfall to stores and customer clicks online.
“Don’t enter the races you feel you should be in. Enter the ones you think you can win”
Crucially though, it was invented as a mechanism to encourage full-price spending across other categories.
Customers snapping up cut-price TVs will be directed towards sound bars, for instance, while those buying dresses are signposted to more expensive handbags or accessories to match their new outfit.
I haven’t seen too many UK websites leveraging Black Friday deals in such a way to offer complementary “you might also like” options at full price.
So, if that’s not the logic behind UK retailers’ involvement, what is?
Counting the cost
Many retailers have reported that sales were boosted on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, therefore making it a successful and worthwhile promotion.
But at what cost have those sales come?
Take into account any extra staff needed on the shopfloor and additional strains placed on warehouse staff and delivery drivers, and any uplift in profitability is surely negligible at best.
All of which leaves Amazon rubbing its hands.
Retailers increasingly tell me they are focusing on “WACD” (What Amazon Can’t Do) through pushes into services, experiential retailing and hospitality.
How on earth does Black Friday fit into that strategy?
The simple answer, and the one that more retailers must arrive at next year, is that it doesn’t – which is why it was so surprising to see Next break with tradition by launching its first ever Black Friday Sale today.
A number of Next’s competitors continue to argue that, because Black Friday is now such a fixture in the British shopping calendar, they have to be seen to be part of the frenetic race for sales.
Is that really the case, though?
Change in priorities
I, for one, applaud them. A friend of mine, a competitive swimmer at a good level, took part in a gala a few weeks ago.
She entered popular, red ribbon races – the 50m freestyle and 100m medley – events where she found herself up against a larger number of competitors, including some of Britain’s best, and was consequently eliminated in the heats.
Afterwards, a friendly rival gave her some solid words of wisdom.
“Don’t enter the races you feel you should be in. Enter the ones you think you can win.”
As far as Black Friday is concerned, it is a mantra UK retailers should take heed of.