Black Friday madness

That time of the year is upon us, a day of pre-Christmas craziness for the retail industry which now takes the title of the busiest shopping day of the year.  It is of course, Black Friday.

Starting out decades ago in America as a way to make up for the loss of sales over Thanksgiving, Black Friday has recently crossed the pond and is quickly becoming a staple of the British shopping calendar.  It is a chance for savvy shoppers to pick up Christmas presents with often-huge reductions, and for stores to increase their trade between mid-season sales and Christmas and shift huge amounts of stock, so why are some retailers opting out this year?

The decision to partake in the event or not is one that can’t be taken lightly, especially if the store in question has an image that does not lend itself to huge reductions and masses of sale-only shoppers coming through your doors.  Opt out and they are likely to lose out on footfall and sales to their competition just one week before December, the month that can make or break a business, or participate in the sales event and risk losing their bond with regular customers who may be put off by the hordes and chaos of it all.  Any large influx in footfall can also be detrimental to the levels of customer service their staff can supply, which in turn can have a damaging effect on the company’s reputation.

One of the most notable absentees from this year’s Black Friday is Asda, who were one of the driving factors behind the popularity of the event in Britain.  Following chaotic scenes of customers literally fighting for bargains last year that circulated on social media, the supermarket chain’s reputation took a damaging blow, and this year they have decided to spread out the savings across the winter months rather than cram them into one weekend.  After researching customer reaction to last year’s event, Asda determined that the majority would much prefer the discounts staggered this way, especially as the Christmas period is already littered with flash sale weekends.  Other high profile brands that are not participating in Black Friday this year are Fat Face and Jigsaw, with the latter even launching a marketing campaign revolving around its anti-sale stance.

The vast majority of high street stores and retailers will be taking part in the event, with the opportunity to cash in on bargain-hungry shoppers who are driven to purchasing due to reduction instead of necessity.  Drawing customers through sales prices can also have a positive effect on non-sale items and give the stores a chance to convert a number of first time shoppers into regular customers.

It is certainly a tricky decision to make and one that could have repercussions within a company either way.  Whether they decide to be a part of the bargain bonanza and the crowds that come with it, or focus on regular customers and avoid the chaos, the choice could be the difference between a business struggling in the red, or succeeding in the black.