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Retailers in the US, such as Amazon, recognised the opportunity to introduce a Black Friday into the UK after seeing an increased interest from bargain hunters overseas. Over the last few years more and more companies have become involved in the popular trend. In 2013, Asda (a subsidiary of the American firm Walmart) announced its “Walmart’s Black Friday by Asda” campaign followed by more UK based retailers including Argos, John Lewis, Debenhams, Boots and Currys Digital.

However, it has not just stopped in the UK. The phenomenon has since been introduced to some European countries such as France and Germany, and even made it all the way over to India, Australia and New Zealand. Soon to be born was Cyber Monday which falls on the Monday immediately after Black Friday. Retailers noticed a trend in consumers shopping for any remaining bargains online on the Monday who may have been too busy throughout Thanksgiving weekend. As the years went by Cyber Monday consistently showed an increase in online sales leading to the now extended sales over and beyond the weekend.

Why Black Friday?

The term ‘Black Friday’ has referred to various events in the past but the phrase gained national attention in the 1980s due to how businesses and retailers detail their finances. In financial records accounting practices would use red ink to detail their losses and use black ink to show their gains. It soon began noticeable that shops were seeing their biggest profits of the year, shown by their records in black ink, starting on the day which is now considered Black Friday and into the Christmas period.

Black Friday Statistics 1*

Now there is no denying that Black Friday generates sales but just how much is spent on Black Friday in the UK?

  • As of last year statistics show that UK consumers spent £3.3 billion between Black Friday and Cyber Monday. £1.1 billion was spent on Black Friday itself which is a huge increase from the £810 million spent in 2014.

  • Black Friday in 2015 was the UK’s biggest day for online retail ever recorded with retailers such as Amazon reporting they sold more than 7.4 million items.

  • Shoppers spent a surprising £968 million on Cyber Monday last year, an increase of 34% from 2014’s total of £720 million.

  • According to analysts, Cyber Monday boosted online traffic by 60% compared to a normal day in 2015.

The dark side of Black Friday

Shops extend their opening hours so you are able to catch their deals from the early hours of the morning right through until late at night. Discounts range on products from electricals, fashion, home and toys and there really are some good deals to be found out there. But for as much as there are benefits for shoppers on Black Friday, over the years they have seen an increasing amount of problems arise as well.

Footage of people fighting over products in store have made headlines in previous years with people scrambling around for the best deals. In the chaos, violent shopping habits have been associated with the excessive spending and the sales have led to a number of arrests as well as injuries (and even deaths in the US!). One officer from the Metropolitan Police in London tweeted “Even on #BlackFriday shoving people to the floor so you can get £20 off a Coffee Maker is still an assault”! 2*

But it is not just consumers that are dealing with the dark side. Retailers experiencing these aggressive outbursts are having to deal with the consequences and ensure they are taking the necessary precautions. Stores are having to ensure they have adequate staff and security to meet the demand of Black Friday. Online retailers live in fear of their websites crashing. They have to ensure they can handle the amount of traffic being driven to their website over the weekend.

With increased violence with the physical shopping experience, 2015 was the year that saw a complete transformation - with the negatives in mind the high streets were almost bare. Shoppers turned to the internet to carry out their spending causing websites to crash left, right and centre. According to The Guardian at least 15 retail websites experienced some form of loss of service on Black Friday in 2015, including big names such as Tesco, Argos and John Lewis. Frustrating for both retailers and shoppers.

Most retailers are aware of the high expectations that consumers have around Black Friday. After all if they are not offering deals that are worthwhile or no-one can access their products online are they even going to get the sales? Not only is it important to keep up with the latest trends it is just as important to retain your customer focus. That is why in 2015, Asda announced they would not be participating in the flash sale frenzy of Black Friday.

Asda President and CEO, Andy Clarke said: "The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event itself. This year customers have told us loud and clear that they do not want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales. With an ever changing retail landscape, now more than ever we must listen carefully to exactly what our shoppers want and be primed and ready to act the minute their needs change.When it comes to putting customers first, Asda has always led the way, which is why we're just as confident in our decision to step away from Black Friday as we were in introducing it to the UK." 3*

So what drives shoppers to behave like this?

Sales and events such as Black Friday are all based around psychology. Limited time offers create that sense of urgency. In an economy today where financial difficulties are a huge issue, consumers feel compelled to try and bag the best deals whenever they possibly can. Customers are aware of the competition between them knowing people will go to extreme lengths to having a successful Black Friday from the hours they shop to the way they shop.

The timing of sales are very important. You tend to find a lot of summer sales in the fashion industry as they know a lot of people will be shopping that time of year to either change up their wardrobe or to buy items for an upcoming holiday. January sales happen because retailers are aware most people will have spent a lot of money over the Christmas and New Year period meaning January for them, could be an extremely quiet month. So if they reduce their prices it will encourage more sales from the people who recognise they could be getting a good deal but cannot justify massive amounts of money.

Black Friday in particular falls at a very good time. Having highlighted earlier that it’s as regarded the beginning of the Christmas shopping season what better time to have a sale? Many people dread Christmas year on year knowing how much of a financial burden it can be – buying gifts, Christmas food and drink and all the Christmas trimmings. Not only that, ever been guilty of leaving everything until the last minute and then frantically rushing around trying to get everything sorted? Of course you have. That’s why being situated at the end of the month prior to Christmas means everyone will want to get their hands on what they can at a reduced rate to save money and feel more organised in the lead up to Christmas.

Marketing and Black Friday

For many, Black Friday is the perfect opportunity for businesses to market themselves effectively. The key to marketing in this instance is for businesses to build up a sense of anticipation. You need to know what will be available, where you will be able to get it from and the potential saving.

Businesses will be using emails, adverts, social media and their website to market their products. They need to ensure they are reaching their target audience in every way possible with an effective message to secure those sales. Their advertisements will be eye catching, informative, figure driven and will be used in the weeks leading up to the day itself to create a sense of excitement amongst keen shoppers.

Tactics in store such as the placement and attraction towards certain displays will encourage more interest as well as clearly labelled deals. A lot of companies will display the old price of a product crossed out and the new prices in a much bigger, bolder font. It’s eye-catching and allows you to physically see how much you will be saving. Online, some websites host countdowns to Black Friday and even display stock numbers to give you that real time knowledge while shopping.

Going back to the psychological aspect of Black Friday, the experience created by shoppers itself hugely benefits businesses. Beyond the violence, the chaos encourages effortless sales due to people getting caught up in their own excitement. In an adrenaline fuelled environment surrounded by that sense of urgency you have limited time to think and limited opportunities to come away with something worthwhile that is why most buys will end up being impulsive. Impulsive buying is not always a good thing for consumers though as in such a frantic environment it is harder to process pricing and product quality.

Is Black Friday really worthwhile?

There are mixed views on Black Friday. Some are avid participants in the sales shopping and some think it is all a big marketing gimmick.

There has been data to show that the peak sales day is not always Black Friday at all and can fall at a previous time in the year where more products are discounted overall. Turning Black Friday into an annual tradition that many people get involved in actually fools people into thinking it’s more acceptable to spend a lot of money during such an event than it is to spend money during other sale opportunities. Bringing forward a start date to the Christmas shopping season means businesses will see sales for an extended period of time, hopefully resulting in a higher spend overall.

But not everyone is falling for it. For as quickly as it gained popularity in the UK, shoppers have realised just as quickly the truth behind it all and that actually some deals are not any better than they would be at any other time of the year or are not even that good overall.

Now with all this having been said, where do you stand when it comes to Black Friday? – For or against?

References:

1* http://business-reporter.co.uk/2015/12/04/5-amazing-stats-black-friday-2015-uk/

2* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-34789019

3* http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-34933486

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is an annual traditional originating from the US since 1932. Black Friday is the day that follows Thanksgiving Day in the United States and is regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Although Black Friday dates all the way back to the 1930s it was not introduced into the UK until the start of the 21st century.

Black Friday Marketing

Black Friday in the UK

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