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Editor's Comment: Black Friday is becoming a dark day for retailers

Keely Stocker

This week has inevitably been dominated by Black Friday. For many, the arrival of the discounting event is a welcome relief after tough trading in October.

However, last month’s slow trading was only exacerbated by Black Friday, as shoppers held out for deals. It’s not the only reason – there has been a dip in consumer confidence, and we can always find fault with the British weather – but the increasing popularity of Black Friday, an annual event that is now marked in many consumers’ calendars, has trained consumers to wait until the end of November to spend.

It’s a vicious circle, and retailers are still at odds as to the best Black Friday strategy. A small group, including Jigsaw and Fat Face, remain resolute in their resolve not to take part, but very few others have followed suit.

This year, more independent retailers have jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon in a bid to keep up with the competition and lure customers into stores and online. With larger retailers extending the discounting period for longer than ever – Amazon is running a 10-day Sale, and Debenhams and House of Fraser are among those offering discounts for more than a week – many indies seem to have decided that, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. 

Black friday bullring small

Black friday bullring small

Not only does Black Friday discounting hit trade in October, it will also have an impact on sales in the run-up to Christmas. People will buy their presents early, at a steep discount, and have less reason to shop between now and the end of the year. Training customers to only shop at discount hits margins – is it worth the temporary sales boost?

Black Friday can drive trade, but it feels like the industry is nearing a point of no return. Discounting is a part of fashion retailing, but there must be smarter ways to do it. Retailers could offer strategic discounts as part of loyalty schemes – these can make shoppers feel valued and create brand advocates rather than bargain-hungry shoppers.

Nearly half of respondents to our discounting survey earlier this year said it was damaging the industry, yet many felt caught in the trap. The cycle must be broken before Black Friday casts an irreversibe shadow over autumn and Christmas trade. 


Readers' comments (6)

  • All the pointers suggest that we work in an Industry that is out of control.

    Many people quite rightly, moan about Black Friday and the damage that it does, but they still jump in regardless with the herd, which is a hypocritical approach and a sign of weakness.

    Nothing will change until you have the individuals who can make a difference to say 'enough', but as the cream is never allow to rise to the top, what should be a professional industry is largely being run by amateurs and as a result, we all suffer.

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  • The genie is out of the bottle, online has completely opened up the distribution cycle and the consumer knows it! Be you a multiple or independent , its very difficult to stay out of the fray unless you have an 'irresistible offer'. i suspect many retailers would quite happily put the internet genie back in the bottle and throw it overboard...

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  • The ghost town in Ox St on Friday night was the best thing that could have happened. This is my Black Friday not working in retail merchandising, and I do not miss the hoops we would have to go through for minimal profit.

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  • darren hoggett

    Very good article the previous poster has quoted.

    Some people are beginning to see through Black Friday, but the days ultimate aim is for some brands to continue their aim of having a fully controlled integrated network.

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  • Having worked as a Salesman , Agent and now as an owner/retailer with a small chain it saddens me to see what the internet and Black Friday has done to all indies , It’s now become very difficult to achieve full price on nearly any brand and only the large chains and volume etailllers that buy brands at a reduced price , get them to sit on stock ( just in case ) and then take off invoice and retrospective discounts stand a chance in this environment . Brands need to take a stance now or risk a very real future of no high street presence. Be strong ,police your brands ,look at Stone Island , Canada goose etc , it can be done if you are precious about your brand.

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  • The trouble is, to "be precious" about one's brand only works if one has something to be precious about. Many of what masquerade as brands now are, in effect, little more than the labels sewn into the back of the ever-increasing churn of cheaper, faster "newness".

    For them, Black Friday is simply an opportunity to offload more stuff more quickly. And for their customers, to buy more stuff more cheaply.

    But for the brands that really want to be brands, the ones that have a belief in their own value, then surely Black Friday has to be an opportunity to to stand out from the pile-em-high peddlers. They're certainly the kind of brands I (and I'm sure an increasing number of consumers) want to engage with.

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