Black Friday is around the corner but is it all it’s cracked up to be and will it survive in years to come? Fashion North investigates.
Many Brits have become accustomed to Black Friday with its slashed prices and utter chaos, as eager shoppers go into a frenzy with hopes to grab amazing deals.
Black Friday (November 25) spending in the UK is expected to hit a record £5bn this year say retail experts, as stores cash in early with discounts throughout the week leading to what has been dubbed, ‘the biggest shopping day of the year.’
And our fashionista hearts speed up at the chance to get a whole new Zara wardrobe for a fraction of the cost.
But despite the optimistic numbers released, Black Friday may not be all it’s made out to be for both retailers and shoppers.
Retail analysts at retailthinktank.com said that the economic changes that came with Brexit mean: “British retailers and consumers undoubtedly face an unprecedented situation, one filled with uncertainty.”
Because of this Black Friday may be the last, as we know it, as major stores consider plans to reduce hefty price cuts on expensive merchandise and focus on reducing prices of everyday items instead.
Some will even go as far as ceasing participation in the event altogether, claiming it brings down profits just before Christmas, a time where shoppers should be spending the most.
We’re asking ourselves – If Black Friday is predicted to beat last year’s records, why do analysts say 2016 could be the worst year for clothing since the recession? Does £5bn represent the reality of the current retail market? Exactly how bright is Black Friday’s future?
Fashion retailers could be making what may be considered a ‘fake profit increase’ during sale times.
Although sales go through the roof, so do returns, with some stores receiving around 10 times their usual number of returned goods.
With many items being often unfit for resale, stores are forced to make a choice between refusing those returns and losing money in order to maintain customer satisfaction in the long run.
“This undoubtedly impacts on profits, as many retailers are now publicly discussing the challenges created both by supporting the infrastructure around returns (the cost of postage etc.) as well as the fact that stock returned is possibly no longer current season and will , therefore, be unable to be resold at the original price,” says Caroline Fox Senior Enterprise Sales Manager at Salecycle, A behavioural marketing company that helps marketers reconnect with their customers online.
Megan Cooper, customer service managers for Waitrose click and collect in partnership with John Lewis said: “We are expecting around 1,200 parcels on the 26th November alone. We normally get between 100-200 a day.
“People get caught up in the good offers and order more than they need. They also will order in multiple sizes to ensure they get the bargain they want”, says
“Because of the sheer volume, it’s difficult also for us to look out for the tell-tale signs of a fraudulent return”, she adds.
Hands up honestly we are all of guilty of impulse buying and later realising that we may have been a bit caught up in the buzz.
But surely that isn’t the only thing to blame for Black Friday’s uncertain future?
Sure, things are cheaper so the stocks will shift but experts say that spreading Black Friday over a week is making retailers look less credible.
But that isn’t the only thing threatening credibility for stores.
Research conducted by Which.co.uk suggests that ‘was’ prices displayed during Black Friday are in many cases increased in the weeks leading to major sale dates to make the deal look more impressive.
However, rules about deals remain vague and some stores can get away with this if they have some sort of displayed explanation available to customers.
Many shoppers have found themselves disappointed with deals noticing that some items they purchased were, in fact, cheaper at different times during the year.
This, of course, leads customers to doubt the value of discounts in the future causing them to be more knowledgeable and careful in following years.
Future Thinking Research found that half of consumers now think that express deals are not worth it and are all a part of a marketing scheme to trick customers into purchasing goods they may not need.
Verdict Retail found that in 2015 two-thirds of consumers who had taken part in Black Friday sales had either brought forward or postponed a planned purchase to benefit from a discount. This meant only 34.3% of customers bought on impulse.
That isn’t such good news for retailers as it resulted in a fall of potential sale figures because shoppers had intended to buy items at their original price.
Verdict Retail also predicts that over the next three to five years consumers will become increasingly money savvy and sensitive to prices, leading more to think before spending and postponing purchases to make the most of lower prices.
Zoe Mills, Analyst at Verdict Retail, comments: “This year, we expect to see the greatest participation in Black Friday yet, kick-starting the Christmas-buying season. However, the event’s future success is unknown, as consumers become more price sensitive and retailers struggle to drive incremental spend.”
2015 saw a shift in consumer trends as shoppers turned to the Internet and mobiles instead of ravaging the shops like in previous years meaning less craziness in stores.
With shoppers turning to their computers, online stores find themselves technically challenged and often testing their online limits and their ability to cope with heavy online traffic.
Major online crashes cause customer dissatisfaction, making them unlikely to purchase from particular sites again.
“Black Friday means one thing for online retailers – huge traffic to their site. In recent years, for some of the biggest retailers, this has lead to the introduction of online ‘queuing’ systems, only allowing a certain number of customers to the website at a time.
“However this defeats the purpose of online shopping (the immediacy and flexibility) and has left many customers quite annoyed, actually driving sales to competitor sites in some cases.
“Online retailers will spend a significant amount of time and resource in the period running up to Black Friday doing everything they can to prepare their site for the huge increase in traffic, because any downtime, no matter how brief, can cost them huge amounts of revenue”, Caroline Fox Senior Enterprise Sales Manager at Salecycle.
Olivia Keighley, 21, University student and regular online shopper from Sunderland says: “There is nothing more annoying than having your items in your ASOS shopping bag suddenly appear to be out of stock. Plus the online queues are sometimes more frustrating than actual queues in store as the whole point of shopping online is to save time
But let’s face it, even if there is a sudden step back from Black Friday sales in the future, shoppers shouldn’t be too concerned as flash sales are regularly available and thank goodness for that!