Twas the Friday after Thanksgiving and all around one could hear the sound of clicks and tills. For this wasn’t just any Friday – this was BLACK FRIDAY - that annual pilgrimage for bargain hunters everywhere.
I travelled to Oxford Street to see first hand how it was shaping up this year – and with a scare at Oxford Circus, I nearly got more than I’d bargained for!
More marmite than marmite, you either love Black Friday or loathe it, for me - I just get those Black Friday Blues:
“Went down to the shops,
see what I could find -
grab me a bargain, that’s what I had in mind.
Nothing but crowds and 20% off,
all I got me were those Black Friday Blues”
Andrew Busby. All rights reserved!
OK so it might not be on the way to becoming a hit but you get the general idea.
For me, Black Friday no longer represents bargains, it’s a day when we all go a little bit bonkers.
Clearly it’s matured since that crazy day in 2014 when people were trampled in the rush to grab a 42” widescreen TV (you can pick up a nice LED model for just £250 now) however, it still remains a magnet for both retailers and consumers alike.
But aren’t we all just kidding ourselves here?
Does Black Friday actually grow sales or simply move them forward into November?
And for consumers, quite apart from the question of whether they are really picking up a bargain, isn’t it simply a case of timing? Surely better to save the money from November payday and watch as the bargains keep coming in the run up to ‘The Big Day’?
Some, such as Dixons Carphone, swear by it; CEO Sebastian James declaring his love for it on Twitter. But others are not so ebullient.
The list of those who prefer not to take part is growing.
Harrods – “We believe it cheapens the brand”
Fat Face – “It’s bad for customers, bad for business and bad for UK retail” CEO Anthony Thompson
Jigsaw – “Black Friday warps our perception of what’s valuable and important” CEO Peter Ruis
Black Friday is fast becoming a paradox.
According to a PwC Consumer Survey conducted in November 2017, nearly half of consumers said that they would either actively avoid it or were simply not interested.
But an early look at the figures from PCA Predict shows that after a sluggish start during the morning, down on last year, it picked up during the afternoon to overtake 2016.
And of course, the event has now stretched to nearly a week making comparisons difficult to make but one thing's for sure, whilst it might polarise opinion, as long as there are retailers desperate to grab market share and bargain hungry consumers – Black Friday won’t be going away anytime soon.
But I’ll leave the last word to Primark who, on their website neatly sum it up thus:
“Black Friday? *Yawn* As if we'd make you wait all year for a flash sale, just to wow you with our totes increds (sic) prices. Savvy honeys know where to shop for them low, low prices - regardless of what day it is”
Amen to that.
Andrew Busby is Founder & CEO of Retail Reflections, Keynote Speaker & Analyst, Retail Week columnist and an IBM Futurist