Will the new found joy of a massive November promotion prove to be a good thing in the long term?

Incremental sales are what every established retailer probably hankers after. When a business has more than a few shops and trading patterns are known and understood, the desire has to be for something that will provide a few extra shoppers heading for the till. And in most cases this normally equates to doing something different.

A long time ago UK stores started opening on a Sunday – the law was changed in 1994 to legalise trading hours –  and at the time it was felt that incremental turnover might follow for those that did it first. Once everybody was doing it, of course, it was a matter of spreading shopper spend over six and a half-ish days, rather than six and costs were inevitably increased and trading patterns altered.


Follow the herd

That was then; now the new big thing on which retailers pin their hopes is Black Friday – a lock, stock and barrel import from the US. It is upon us this month, on the 27th, and it will certainly garner additional sales in November that might not otherwise have taken place at this period. And the reason for participating? Because all the others are doing it – for the most part.

There is certainly a pretty compelling reason for following the herd as failure to do so may mean that just at the moment that consumer purse strings are loosened you miss out.

Next – an old-fashioned sale where the red banners mean something and consumers understand this

John Ryan

But look at the example set by Next. This is a retailer that seems to have made a habit of pulling rabbits out of hats. Shoppers know that when Next goes on sale it means that pretty much everything on the shelves will be discounted and shortly after this the new collections in their entirety will appear. It is, in short, an old-fashioned sale where the red banners mean something and consumers understand this.

Compare this with retailers (and it would be simple and churlish to name names) that have seasonal clearances, blue cross days or just money off promotions from time to time and the Next resolve not to discount unless it’s on sale looks like a message that is understood and which is effective.

Back to Black Friday: is the matter therefore of pressing the money-off button for fear of missing out on the right decision? Might it not make more sense to stick to your guns, maintain margins and send shoppers the signal that your sale actually means something? Probably, but this still won’t stop the rush that will certainly take place late this month.