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Indies hold their nerve on Black Friday

Independent retailers are shunning Black Friday despite rising pressure from consumers to offer discounts.

The high street is awash with discounts this week as department stores, multiples and etailers run week-long Sales in the run-up to Black Friday on 23 November, in a bid to tempt shoppers to spend.

Debenhams is offering 12 days of deals with up to 50% off product categories every day. House of Fraser is offering up to 60% off across all categories and Asos was expected to have 20% off site-wide. John Lewis has up to 30% off brands including Ralph Lauren, Levi’s and Diesel. The department store will also price-match rivals under its “Never knowingly undersold” price promise.

Shop Direct’s Very had 50% off selected fashion and footwear brands all week, while New Look launched its biggest Black Friday yet, offering up to 50% off selected lines in store and online.

However, despite pressure from the high street several independents told Drapers they are not getting involved in Black Friday as the hit on margins would not be offset by any increase in footfall the event might bring.

“It’s for big American brands to boost sales after Thanksgiving and other big retailers to promote themselves, but why would we do anything?” said Paul Lamb, owner of footwear store Sims in Birmingham.

“Times are tough enough without this constant discounting.”

Juliet Farrington, manager at womenswear, jewellery and gift boutique Moonflower in Stroud, Gloucestershire, agreed: “It’s a thing for the bigger chain stores and electricals brands. We did it last year, but it didn’t really make any difference. [The discounts are too big] – we can’t compete with that.”

Dorian Holmes of surfwear store Skintrade on the Isle of White said retailers did not benefit from Black Friday as it causes a vacuum in sales in the weeks running up to and following the event: “Last year the town was very busy on Black Friday but the week leading up to it was very poor because people are waiting for discounts. The week after it was quiet too. It’s killing small shops and I certainly won’t be taking part.”

Joseph Ball, owner of menswear store Davids of Haslemere, in Surrey, argued that participating in in the discounting event damages the reputations of independents: “We do nice-quality clothing and we’ve no wish to degrade that clothing by discounting it in a murky Black Friday environment. I’m sure customers must be realising by now that there is a lot of rubbish sold on that day, or over that period, and the main reason I don’t partake is that I have no interest in being involved in that. I think it damages our standing in the high street.”

Of those few independents taking part in the Sales event, discounting is expected to be limited.

Nikki Hutchinson, owner of Clitheroe womenswear store Seasons, in Lancashire, said: “We’ll just have small offers on styles that have been in since the beginning of the season. You have to do something because people expect it now.”

Psyche department store in Middlesbrough will be offering 15% off selected, slow-selling lines and older pre-season stock, said owner Steve Cochrane: “We’re not making as much of a fuss about Black Friday as we have in previous years because it ends up hurting you financially.

“I wish it would go away. To start discounting product just before December when a lot of people go to Sale mid-December is crazy. If you can’t survive in the busiest times of the year, then it’s not a good sign for the business.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Good to hear many Indies are ignoring Black Friday, but Cochrane's stance is completely hypocritical - If he wants it to go away, then he shouldn't get involved in it, otherwise you continue to be the problem rather than the solution.

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