Brits are expected to spend nearly £2 billion in today’s Christmas shopping extravanganza – but is it really all it’s cracked up to be?
Brits are expected to spend a collective £1.96 billion this Black Friday (today, Friday, 25 November), following last year’s sales which topped £1 billion and saw retailers scoop a huge £3.3 billion over the four-day weekend, including ‘Cyber Monday’.
Despite this, a number of Scottish businesses have chosen to buck the trend this year and rebel against Black Friday in a bid to protect their integrity and, instead, focus on value for money.
Kelso-based country clothing specialist A Hume, for example, is keen to point out that not all retailers will be taking part in this season’s early sales.
It claims some retailers are essentially tricking their customers – inflating prices in the weeks leading up to the big day so the savings seem that bit more impressive.
Big brand names started their sales weeks ago, luring shoppers in before they reveal ‘big cuts’ at the end of the week.
A Hume says shoppers who turned to online retailers to avoid the madness of the sales season were also left disappointed last year – with a number of websites experiencing technical difficulties and clearly unable to cope with the demand.
It says shoppers across the country will, this year, hit the high street in a bid to bag bargains which may be too good to be true.
But while many companies prepare for the fracas, others – such as Hume – aren’t planning to take part.
After establishing the firm in 1929, Hume says it prides itself on uncompromising standards and this includes an unwillingness to unfairly hike up prices in the countdown to Black Friday for customers to grab a ‘deal’ before December hits.
Managing director Archie Hume says they don’t believe in the hype surrounding discount pricing and instead prefer to offer their customers fair pricing all year round.
He says value is important to the clothing company and that the entire team, including the shop floor staff, is on board with the business ethos.
Hume believes that while the company won’t compromise on quality, it strives to make sure its prices are fair and that customers receive the value they pay for.
He says any sales are well promoted and offer genuine savings, making sure customers benefit from true discounts and keep coming back.
KPMG LLP, meanwhile, says Black Friday “cannibalises” traditional Christmas shopping habits.
It says the landmark day encourages consumers to make their purchases earlier – distorting the traditional Christmas shopping trend.
Although Black Friday, which is growing in popularity in the UK, marks a key moment in the retail calendar – with 2015 seeing record-breaking sales – KPMG claims sales typically noted in December are now being “cannibalised” by the purchases being made in late November.
KPMG says evidence of this can be found in its analysis of ONS (Office for National Statistics) monthly retail sales figures, which show that, in 2015, 2.6% of non-food retail sales shifted from December to November when compared to 2013.
Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG, said: “With the whole Black Friday weekend now marking the largest shopping weekend in the UK, it’s hard to believe that the event was only widely adopted by us back in 2013. You could also be forgiven for assuming that consumers might be spending more as a result of BlackFriday, but in reality it is likely they are just spending earlier.
“As the shopping event has become more prevalent across the UK, it is clear that the traditional Christmas shopping period has been distorted by an extended trading period that now starts earlier than it used to. However, it is important to remember that British consumers have been binging on a diet of discounts for some time, so this movement can’t purely be attributed to Black Friday.”
Dom Joseph CEO and co-founder of Captify, which analyses 15 billion online searches a month regarding Black Friday, says retailers can’t fool savvy shoppers hunting for bargains and has revealed two key trends for this year: retailers offering huge discounts ahead of Black Friday and consumers consumers researching as early as August to make sure they are getting the best price possible.
He said: “Today will undoubtedly surpass the record £1.1 billion spent last year by bargain-hungry customers. In the six years since its introduction into the UK, Black Friday is rightly recognised as the best day of the year to get a good deal on a huge variety of products.
“We are seeing two key trends emerge this year, firstly, more and more retailers, both online and offline, have offered discounts well ahead of Black Friday. Amazon launched its ‘35 days of Black Friday’ , while UK companies, such as Argos and Tesco, have also offered deals ahead of the day, in order to capture as many consumers as possible. Retailers know the heightened expectations that consumers have for Black Friday, which is why we’ve seen such growth in discounts before the event itself.
“Secondly, people are now monitoring the prices of products they want to buy, months in advance of Black Friday, and researching information as early as August. Not only this, based on the analysis of 15 billion online searches, there was actually an 11% jump last month of UK consumers researching product prices related to Black Friday, compared to last year.
“Consumers will always vote with their wallets, and if Black Friday didn’t offer huge price discounts on products that consumers valued and wanted, it wouldn’t be nearly as successful as it is and will continue to be.
On the other side of the coin, so to speak, there is a number of businesses laying on some great offers in a bid to capitalise on Black Friday – and not necessarily related to the retail shopping frenzy.
Widely regarded as the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US – and taking place the day after Thanksgiving – the tradition of Black Friday has made its way overseas and onto British high streets and, like it or loathe, looks like it’s here to stay.