This year, the popularity of the post-Thanksgiving American discount event Black Friday swept through the UK, with a large amount of retailers taking part and offering huge deductions on their stock. Originally a high street event where bricks-and-mortar stores held sales, this year a considerable number of online-only reductions were available. This resulted in Black Friday merging with Cyber Monday (historically the top day for online sales in December) and creating a four day sales fest of promotions and discounts.
What is Black Friday?
According to Details.com; “In the 1950s managers at factories in the US coined the term Black Friday for the day after Thanksgiving because so many workers called in sick that day. And police in Philadelphia in the early sixties were the first to use the name specifically about the shopping holiday because of the crowds, traffic, bad behaviour, and all-around nuisance the shopping rush caused.” The Black Friday we know today only came about in the eighties, when retailers began spinning it into a marketing catchphrase. Cyber Monday was invented in 2005 by the website Shop.com, which wanted an exciting term to help drum up buzz around a new online shopping holiday to compete with Black Friday. Because of the popularity this year, many critics are promoting ‘Giving Tuesday’ to back the idea that over the Thanksgiving break Americans should be giving rather than buying.
Did we predict a riot?
We all heard about the electronic product-related madness that heightened overnight in stores like Tesco and Asda resulting in ‘mini riots’ appearing on the news. Police blamed retailers for the Black Friday mayhem that caused people to be admitted to hospital for television related injuries and The New York Post even claimed that gun sales soared due to the Ferguson protests over the Black Friday weekend, which is chilling to say the least.
It wasn’t all bad however, BBC Radio 1 reported from Oxford Street where the only shop that had people queuing outside their doors was Nike. There were no riots, no one was fighting and everyone waiting to buy Nike’s exclusive Black Friday trainers were in high spirits about the offers.
As well as issues with Black Friday demand in stores, customers attempting to buy online also struggled with completing orders and experienced slow websites and glitches with adding items to baskets. This forces the question that some retailers’ technical infrastructure could not handle the surge in traffic and their sites suffered as a result. The boost in traffic resulted in customers staring at a holding page or sites not fully loading at all; retailers’ bounce rates will have been colossal. According to independent retail analyst Nick Bubb; “All Black Friday is likely to do is bring forward business from December, reduce gross margins and undermine consumers' willingness to pay full-price again before Christmas.” Bubb said that retailers that were not involved, like clothing retailer Next, were “thinking long-term and preserving their pricing power”.
There has been an abundance of discussion on Twitter as to what the industry thinks retailers should do next year. Many tweeters were arguing that companies should focus on value over the long term rather than just a single day, following the thought that customers buy more than once. EcomChat then raised the question of what retailers should do next year giving the options to go big, ignore it or do something else, most optioning for ignoring it or doing something else. In comparison, Joseph Joseph’s Head of Online Mark Warwick, boasted being better prepared this year by hiring extra temporary pick and pack staff in their warehouse, claiming impressively that Joseph Joseph doubled their October sales online during the four day event.
Whether or not a retailer participated in the Black Friday/Cyber Monday also depended on their company style and how they portray themselves. Supermarkets like Tesco are happy for customers to view them as price competitive, whereas brands like Holland Esquire prefer to protect their exclusive brand and the price point this commands. Other premium fashion brands like Whistles and Jigsaw either didn’t participate or offered only 10% off for the same reason.
The next holiday event to look forward to is ‘Manic Monday’ which takes place on the second Monday in December. Econsultancy reported that Manic Monday will be bigger in the UK than Black Friday and Cyber Monday with online sales predicted at £676.5m compared to £649.6m on Cyber Monday and £555.5m on Black Friday (figures are estimated). So that’s another one for everyone to wake up at 1am for.