Black Friday: Is it the Marmite of the Sale Season?

Emma Ward
  • Content Editor
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Us Brits do love a bargain! But with the American tradition ‘Black Friday’ well and truly taking grip here in the UK, we find ourselves asking whether a whole day dedicated to reduced prices, as retailers go head-to-head, is really a blessing or a curse for the consumer?

Now known as the biggest shopping day of the year, Black Friday is officially the start of the Christmas shopping season. Last year British consumers spent £810m on online purchases alone (that’s £9,375 every second), however Internet spending this year is expected to exceed last year’s figure and hit the £1bn mark, proving how popular the seasonal event is becoming.

More than 75% of retailers are expected to partake in this year’s event, with some offering discounts beyond the day. Now, it’s all about ‘Black Friday Weekend’, or even ‘Black Friday Week’ in some cases. But if they had their way, would our most loved retailers really join in?

Christmas is the busiest time of year for retailers. During last year’s festive shopping period, £74.2bn was spent by Brits on the run up to the big day – a 2.2% rise compared to the previous year. All of a sudden, there’s a need to shop and people are willing to spend money. So why would retailers discount their prices during a time when they could (and used to!) sell at the full price?

The answer is quite obvious really… competition! Because the day has become such a success, consumers know where and when they can grab a bargain. If retailers aren’t offering their stock at a discounted price, customers may choose to shop elsewhere, meaning stores could lose more than just a couple of pounds. For the likes of Debenhams, John Lewis and House of Fraser, whose product offerings are similar, cost-saving can often trump customer loyalty.

While retaining customers is an important driver for Black Friday bargains, it doesn’t necessarily come at a loss though (the very name “Black Friday” comes from the day when stores go from the red – debit – into the black – credit). Brands can still turn an impressive profit, despite achieving less of a margin on discounted items, by taking advantage of the up-sell opportunity; influencing a customer to buy something additional, or more expensive, together with their original purchase. A lot of stores offer discount on selected items or within certain sections of their store, allowing them to entice their audience in with the hope of consumers purchasing an additional non-sale items alongside their discounted shopping basket.

Even though there are evident benefits of Black Friday for the retailer, this is not always the case, with many voicing their concerns about the flash event. Anthony Thompson, chief executive of FatFace explains, “constant discounting is sucking the life out of the high street and Black Friday has simply added insult to injury” by encouraging retailers to sell at a discount during the pre-season.

In order to protect their margin and business model, some retailers have chosen to take a different approach to Black Friday this year, offering their customers attractive incentives other than the usual discounted prices. White Stuff, for example, are giving their shoppers a gift card for future purchases, as a way of rewarding their customers’ loyalty without discounting their stock.

Then there are those retailers who, truly in the spirit of Christmas, are choosing to step aside from the usual battlefield of in-store promotions, to instead support local charities. Clothing retailer FatFace will be donating 10% of their net profits made on Black Friday to chosen charity Youth at Risk, as well as a number of other selected charities.

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We’re delighted to be supporting Youth at Risk this November. Giving back is an integral part of our brand values, and we’re very excited to be pioneering this new charitable initiative.
Paul Murphy, Store Manager for FatFace, Cambridge
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If this unique take on Black Friday appeals to your charitable nature, then there are ways to give something back when purchasing from any of your favourite retailers – the ultimate guilt-free shopping! Turning the event name on its head, online shopping site Easyfundraising have launched ‘Give Back Friday’, an initiative that allows the consumer to make free donations to charities and good causes by simply doing their online shopping through The organisation estimates that, from the expected online spend in the UK on Black Friday alone, an incredible £14million could be raised… with no extra cost to the consumer! Use the hashtag #GiveBackFriday to get involved.

There is no disputing that Black Friday will continue to split retailers into separate camps, however it’s exciting to discover the new initiatives arising year-on-year to tackle the divide in opinion of both the stores and consumers alike; from those that usually shy away from the Black Friday madness to those that dive in head-first (we certainly have a few of each in our office!), these approaches could certainly be the solution to unite the Christmas shoppers!

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Black Friday – tweet us via @gmdesignltd!

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