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
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.
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