Retailers have a responsibility to confront the cynicism surrounding promotional events such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
It can be a fine line between something that’s exciting and great fun and something that detractors deem unseemly. I should know – we’ve been walking that line for years.
I’ve always been a glass half-full person and I encourage my team to seek the upside and the opportunity, not the problems and pitfalls.
I also care passionately about retailing as an industry, a pleasure activity and a force for good.
However, when perception is everything – and the mainstream media’s default position can be one of snobbery and cynicism – we all have a responsibility to challenge those who would do us down.
Looking to the past
Take Black Friday, the import of the US’s post-Thanksgiving Sale.
Last year the media showed customers clambering over each other in Asda to buy big TVs. There were a number of subtexts within that story – none of them nice – but the overall picture that was painted was that this epitomised everything that was wrong with consumerism and showed retailers and our customers at our worst.
“We mustn’t let the cynics decry Black Friday or Cyber Monday or make people feel guilty for getting a bargain”
Jacqueline Gold, Ann Summers
Once upon a time, the rush as the doors opened on the Harrods Sale was reported as a truly exciting and positive event.
Those who’d camped overnight to be first in line were no different from those who pitched tents for Wimbledon tickets or prime spots on The Mall for Royal Weddings – slightly eccentric but wonderfully British characters.
Their stoicism was something to be celebrated not pitied, as I feel they are now.
Don’t feel guilty
We mustn’t let the cynics decry Black Friday or Cyber Monday or make people feel guilty for getting a bargain.
Of course, if we’re honest, we retailers would prefer it if the Black Friday phenomenon had never reached the UK at all and we would rarely have to discount or nurture our margins, but the reality is our customers love these days.
Customers can get a discount before Christmas on products they actually want, without that gnawing resentment you feel when the gift you bought on Christmas Eve is 50% off on Boxing Day.
It also comes right on pay day and shopping early makes us feel organised, ahead of the game and in a position where we can enjoy the festive season without worrying about presents yet to be bought.
“All good shoppers measure their purchases by how much they saved, not how much they spent. The question is, what to do with the spare cash?”
It’s also more likely to reward existing customers, as opposed to those who only visit us when we’re on sale.
These retail events are a great invention, not a sign that the end is nigh.
That’s not the only upside or the only good thing coming from our industry.
All good shoppers measure their purchases by how much they saved, not how much they spent. The question is, what to do with the spare cash?
One great thing you could do is go to www.crackandcider.com or visit its Hackney store and buy a new winter coat or maybe a fleece, which it will then give to a rough sleeper to London in time for Christmas. Hats off to the female entrepreneurs behind this brilliant initiative.
If you need a redemptive Christmas retail story to tell your friends who think we’re all going to hell in a shopping cart, tell this one.
- Jacqueline Gold is chief executive of Ann Summers