Tomorrow is the big day. The Black Day. The day when it all really kicks off for Christmas. Tomorrow is Black Friday. I should leave it there – you are way too busy to read on, I imagine.
But I won’t. Black Friday is something of a misnomer: it has in fact been a week of build up, with many companies turning it into a series of events, Argos being the most prominent, with “12 days of amazing deals” – that’s almost a fortnight!
It also heralds the start of the run of shopping highs that will see Cyber Monday next week and then onwards up until the January sales start on 24 December (clearly tis the season to misnomer).
But is Black Friday and the increasing propensity to make it a week-or-more-bargain-sell-off-price-slash-jamboree really good news for retailers? I think that while it has provided much hoopla for the media and generated quite a bit of excitement for consumers, ultimately it is unsustainable. The parent in me wants to yell “it’ll end in tears”.
Five years ago there was no Black Friday marked on any UK or European retailer’s calendar. It was a very US affair. Now it has escalated at an alarming rate to cover weeks before, during and after and, in their zeal to compete, retailers are slashing margins to the bone.
In the US Black Friday hangs around Thanksgiving, but everywhere else in the world it is an arbitrary Friday in November that, if nothing else, cuts into margins on the usually rich pickings of the panicked Christmas shopper.
And not only do retailers loose out on margin, but there are huge costs associated with keeping the store open online and not crashing.
But it isn’t just the fact that it loses revenues for retailers, it could have a much more harmful effect: long term loss of custom. Take the inevitable fails that will happen when sites get overloaded. The poor customer experience – not to mention the poor headlines if this happens to a big retailer – can do significant brand damage. Brand damage that goes way beyond Christmas and impacts for years to come.
Already some companies have very publically pulled out of Black Friday – Asda being the most obvious – and this trend, I believe, will continue. There is a certain brand cache in not following the crowd and perhaps then offering deals outside of the bunfight at a time that better suits the retailer and its planning for Christmas.
And it seems to be working for Argos and its 12 day ‘Black Friday’. As of 25 November, its site had achieved a 22% rise in traffic, according to digital analytics firm SimilarWeb. But that rather proves my point. Doing it its own way and not bombarding consumers with a single day of deals puts Argos in the driving seat, takes it out of the melee and secures a spread load of traffic. And makes customers happy.
On the flipside, however, this will only encourage more retailers to hit ‘Black Friday’ for longer next year and tip retail towards the nadir of a never-ending year-long sale. That would indeed make for many a black day.