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Comment: Transatlantic turmoil will test Black Friday trading

Christina Simone

This week I am heading to New Jersey to visit my family and celebrate the most American of holidays, Thanksgiving.

After a day of stuffing myself with turkey and pumpkin pie, a morning stroll around the Mall at Short Hills to check out the Black Friday deals will be much needed.

The notorious day of Sales has been a “thing” in the US for as long as I can remember. So it has been interesting to see the phenomenon make its way to the UK and watch its impact on the fashion industry here (stay strong, Jigsaw and Next!). This week, we have seen more evidence that UK retailers are trying to take a more considered approach to Black Friday, for example, by extending it to a week-long event.

IMRG forecasts £1.27bn will be spent in the UK on Black Friday, up from £1.09bn in 2015. In the US, sales are expected to reach $655.8bn (£525.8bn), up from $626.1bn (£502bn) last year. However, in 2015 there was no Brexit vote, there was no Donald Trump election.

Will these seismic political events affect the Black Friday rush and have an impact on people’s Christmas spending plans? Maybe, maybe not. In the UK, a benchmark to keep an eye on for comparison will be Amazon, which last year sold  7.4 million products online during its Black Friday Sale –  equivalent to 86 items every second.

Speaking of Trump, my trip to the States will also be the first time I have gone back since the presidential election (or the biggest feat of marketing hype this year second only to Black Friday, one might say).

The economic implications of Brexit are unclear, and so too are the effects the US election will have on the world.

Post-Brexit, it is possible there will be a trade deal between the US and UK, which could make the environment between the two markets friendlier. Hefty taxes or a raise in price on foreign imports, however, especially those from China, may prove more challenging. It is all speculation, though, until the UK leaves the European Union and until the president-elect takes office in January.

But from all of this arise struggles within our industry to overcome the trepidation that has been caused by the political uncertainty of the last six months.

This year’s Thanksgiving gatherings in the US are sure to be slightly tense affairs that feature shouty conversations on world politics. At least most of the Black Friday sales are now accounted for online, so we will not see the same scenes of frenzied shoppers trampling over each other for the last pair of Chelsea boots. The expression “hang in there” has never felt so comforting, yet so infuriating at the same time.


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