Retailers are offering more Black Friday deals than ever before. Retail Week takes a look at how UK retailers are taking advantage of the US shopping frenzy.

Why are we talking about it now?

Today is Black Friday, the Friday after the US holiday Thanksgiving when retailers cut prices in a shopping extravaganza as people take the day off to stock up on gifts.

Last year a record number of shoppers visited US stores over the Black Friday weekend spending $52bn in total, an average of $398 each, according to the National Retail Federation. 

Who is promoting Black Friday in the UK?

Online giant Amazon has been offering Black Friday deals in the UK for the last two years, despite the UK not celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, after spotting an opportunity to drive sales.

The etailer is driving deals even harder this year, doubling the number of products on Black Friday deals to 1,000 with the average discount around 40%. Deals are on limited stock, so once the deal is gone it’s gone.

Other US retailers operating in the UK have joined in too with Apple offering 5-10% off products and Walmart-owned Asda cutting prices on tablets, which are set to be the most sought-after Christmas gift this year.

Now some UK retailers have also jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon as they seek to take advantage of the Christmas season. Tesco is offering four days of deals online called ‘Cyber deals’, starting from today which offer over 25-50% off on certain items and The Hut Group’s is offering reductions.

Boots and John Lewis are also offering special loyalty points deals. IMRG head of communications Andy Mulcahy believes UK retailers are joining in to ensure they cover all bases to try and keep customers away from online giant Amazon.

Planet Retail analyst Lisa Byfield-Green says: “A number of retailers have started offering Black Friday deals in the UK but it doesn’t seem to have taken off because people don’t really understand the concept or the name.

“It’s strange that we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving yet some retailers are foisting it on us.”

Black Friday sounds a bit grim, where does the name originate?

Black Friday is said to have got its name in the US city of Philadelphia, after locals got tired of the traffic chaos caused by the rush to the shops after Thanksgiving.

But the “black” also means profit, and therefore could now be seen as the day when retailers go “back in the black” after months in the red.

Why is it only online in the UK?

As Amazon has led the charge, retailers have naturally decided to compete within the same channel. In the US, Black Friday deals are on offer in store too but it hasn’t switched to physical stores as yet in the UK.

Keeping it online also means retailers can take advantage of its timing as it falls just 10 days before Cyber Monday, the busiest online shopping day of the year.

As the phenomenon grows, retailers may begin investing in deals in store as well as online if they can protect margins. However, Black Friday remains a fledgling promotion with a long way to go to rival its counterpart across the pond.