Black Friday and Cyber Monday have become fixtures on the British retail calendar but as competition hots up, stores have kicked off their pre-Christmas sales campaigns early
It’s (almost) Christmas time, and there’s no need to be afraid. Unless, that is, you find yourself in a high-street store at midnight on 27 November. Black Friday – the one overseas invasion it seems even James Bond can’t save us from – generated £810m for retailers last year. It’s estimated shoppers spent £360,000 a minute on credit cards – but also prompted scuffles at some stores when bargain-hunters couldn’t get their hands on discounted TVs, tablets and homeware.
This year, retail analysts predict sales will hit £1.07bn on Black Friday and £943m on Cyber Monday (30 November). Boxing Day, traditionally the day consumers shop for post-Christmas bargains, is expected to see spending hit £856m – an increase of more than £150m on 2014.
Many retailers got in on the act early this year. Amazon’s Black Friday Deals Week kicked off on Monday and runs until Sunday, while Carphone Warehouse has a 10-day Black Tag promotion on selected mobile phones and call plans. Currys PC World commenced 10 days of deals on Monday. It will start its Black Friday sale online at 6am with stores opening at 8am.
Black Friday, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving in the US, was first ‘celebrated’ in 1960s Philadelphia. Jacques de Cock from London School of Marketing believes the discount event has not been embraced in the British marketplace as it has in the US, and has instead been manipulated to extend Christmas marketing. He says the “en masse sale” is not about increasing profit but capturing the competition for long term revenue.
“Competition is not about increasing the wallet but capturing a larger part of it,” says De Cock. “In the UK there is no reason to make Black Friday special so the need to be hyper competitive with offline shops does not exist. Most are trying to remain competitive for the whole of the season and focusing on the more British ‘Christmas’ theme early. What retailers seem to be going for is staggered long term varied deals to encourage long term browsing. There is no economic reason to want to bunch sales on either Black Friday or Cyber Monday but they want to capture that high traffic.”
But the pre-Christmas buying frenzy doesn’t excite all retailers. John Lewis had warned fellow stores to curb Black Friday promotions after the event hit profitability during Christmas week itself. However the retailer promises to honour its ‘Never Knowingly Undersold’ pledge by matching competitors’ Black Friday deals. It has taken on 3,000 temporary ‘partners’ to prepare for Black Friday and Christmas with John Lewis managing director Andy Street predicts its participation would exceed 2014’s.