Black Friday bargains and promotions have been everywhere for the past couple of weeks.
Every year I’m fascinated by the way our retailers find new ideas to adapt this originally imported promotion to get UK shoppers on the move ahead of the Christmas spending season proper.
Asda was the first bricks-and-mortar retailer to bring Black Friday to the UK – and that was only five years ago.
Of course, it’s long been a US institution and, for many US shoppers, it’s the equivalent of our Boxing Day Sales.
After the joys of family and too much turkey on Thanksgiving Day, it’s a good escape to get out of the house and go shopping.
Black Friday doesn’t have the same launchpad over here, of course, and that’s one of the reasons why it’s become much less specific and spreads out over what is starting to seem like the whole of November.
“Our first Black Friday Sales were such a success that we had real trouble controlling the crowds and keeping our colleagues safe in the melees”
It’s become no more than a hook to wake everyone up to the fact that Christmas is only a few weeks away.
And nothing gets people woken up more than the chance of a good bargain, online or at the shops.
Many of you will remember the other reason for spreading out the celebration.
Our first Black Friday Sales were such a success that we had real trouble controlling the crowds and keeping our colleagues safe in the melees which seemed to be part of the UK’s enjoyment of the occasion.
So we soon decided to make it a series of seasonal promotions, rather than a one-day event.
Now, Black Friday has become not much more than a banner for good deals, with many of them nothing to do with things you can buy in a shop.
A quick survey of my deleted items box reveals that in the last week I’ve been offered Black Friday deals on my mobile phone arrangements, my next escape to a Champneys spa resort, flights with British Airways and Ryanair, a table at my favourite restaurant/nightclub, my energy bill and even my Black Friday data update from Retail Week!
“So maybe the success of Black Friday promotions is that they are all about giving ourselves the presents, treats and experiences which others didn’t”
Perhaps that’s got something to do with the general slowness of spending this year and the perennial need to get the Christmas tills ringing as early as possible.
But maybe my list of Black Friday deals is a clue to something else. Many of these emails are about selling us things and experiences for ourselves, rather than encouraging us to get the perfume for Auntie Lil.
It reminds us too that the world’s biggest and most profitable promotional event is Singles Day in China, which reportedly took $25bn on one day on November 11, with its inventor Alibaba collaring well over half of that.
So maybe the success of Black Friday promotions is that they are all about giving ourselves the presents, treats and experiences which others didn’t.
And the real trick in getting shoppers to open their wallets is to ensure that what they buy will go to the most deserving person possible – me (or the kids, or my lovely wife…).
Andy Clarke is the former chief executive of Asda