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Editor's Comment: Blanket discounts make Black Friday a dark day for retail

Keely Stocker

Black Friday has been plagued with issues since the US shopping event first arrived on these shores.

It is hard to forget the chaos in 2014 as shoppers wrestled over cheap TVs in Asda, and the stampede last year after a fight broke out on the London Underground at the height of the Black Friday rush hour.

There have been umpteen tales of website crashes, delivery delays and surges in returns – leaving customers feeling frustrated, rather than satisfied with their bargain purchases. 

Yet many UK retailers have become addicted to the Black Friday drug and feel that they have no choice but to take part or risk losing trade.

This year, some multiple retailers seem to have abandoned any pretence at having a strategic, targeted approach. Hobbs, Karen Millen and Jack Wills are among those offering blanket discounts across all stock. 

Fat Face appears to be holding firm to its anti-discounting stance. However, a quick Google search for ”Jigsaw Black Friday” brings up a landing page called “Our Friday”, which is offering up to 30% off the autumn edit – suggesting it may have fallen off the wagon.

I am reassured to see a change in attitude from Independents. Although many took the ”if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” approach last year, this time indies are pulling back from Black Friday because the squeeze on margins is just too great.

It is easy to see the appeal of Black Friday to drive sales and clear overhanging stock. Last year, John Lewis had the “biggest day ever” in its trading history on Black Friday, and Zalando broke its peak record with 2,000 orders per minute. GlobalData predicts that Black Friday will bring £10.4bn in sales to the UK this year, up 3.1% on 2017.

However, retailers must be more considered. How will targeted Black Friday promotions support the overall business strategy? 

Instead of peaking too soon with blanket discounting, and depressing December spend, retailers should put a clever plan in place to keep the tills ringing until the end of the year.



Readers' comments (4)

  • Targeted discounting with older items can be acceptable, but what has been seen so far by certain brands with blanket discounts - that would include core and latest lines - is an absolute disgrace and is the most ignorant piece of retailing of modern times. On this evidence, some brands are only interested in themselves.

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  • Fashion retail has become weary. Tired on ideas and brands are much to blame. The same merry go round of senior management. No wonder pure plays are kicking.

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  • Fashion has too much mediocrity in senior positions. Too much time on the golf course, not enough P45's.

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  • Thierry BAYLE

    Very good comments and I totally agree that blanket discounting during Black Friday (including sometimes on new goods) does not make sense.
    Where is the error coming from?
    Keely, you said it: How will targeted Black Friday promotions support the overall business strategy?
    Yes we can provide discounts on old goods, last season's goods...
    The overall margin has to work in your favour.
    So as an indie, either you do it based on the above, ask financial support from the Brands, buy goods at a discount (that you can resell at a discount) or have a private label programme (with heigher margin so heavier discounts are possible within reason).

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