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Posted on Wed 9th Dec, 2015 in: Uncategorized by Louise ODonoghue

As the chaos of Black Friday week comes to an end, I'm sure there will be shoppers sat at home happily watching their new TV, while Cyber Monday shoppers will be revelling in the bargain gifts they've got their hands on. As a tradition in America, Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, marking the end of one holiday and the beginning of the Christmas season. In the UK, it's a random Friday in November that offers discounts, deals and bargains - a tradition that UK retailers poached from America to provide an excuse to create a buzz around annual deals and increase footfall and sales. Amazon and Asda were two of the first UK retailers to offer Black Friday discounts, and since then even more UK businesses have jumped on board. This year, travel deals have featured alongside the retail deals in the Black Friday offers. Both Black Friday and Cyber Monday seem to have merged into one week of deals and promotions, Cyber Monday supposedly being the most popular day for online shopping, creating a great opportunity for retailers to offer discounts. What do the businesses actually get out of it? In the UK, it started out as a way to entice customers, just as any deal or promotion does. It's become so popular that businesses, specifically retailers, that don't join in are at risk of losing out on business. And if the deals do encourage people to buy more than usual, then it's a great way to make room for Christmas stock, which is another priority for retailers at this time of year. However, although the businesses that don't participate are at risk of losing out on sales, from a PR perspective, they've also missed out on media opportunities. I've seen some great articles across different media titles discussing the best Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals, which is a nice way to get people talking about your products. On the other hand, Asda was talked about by not participating. After being the company to coin Black Friday in the UK, the retailer instead issued a statement saying the company would invest in a range of festive offers instead. And to give credit, Asda has gone all-out with the Christmas advertising campaign this year. In reality, I think Asda caved by offering money off petrol for the weekend in fear of missing out. Black Friday itself has received some bad press after 2014's frenzy, which is why Asda turned its back on the event this year. Images of shoppers wrestling over the best-priced products, and summaries of the safest vs the most dangerous places to shop on Black Friday are just two of the potential reasons for this year's decline in thrifty shoppers out and about in public. While Black Friday and Cyber Monday 'week' saw over seven days of offers and promotions from both high street shops and online retailers, the online shoppers spent much more than those in the shops at the end of November, with people choosing the 'safer' option of shopping from home. Black Friday itself was eerily quiet for some shopping centres, especially in comparison to the reports of mini-riots and police intervention in some stores last year. While UK consumers opted out, our American counterparts were as keen as ever to get their hands on the goods, with hundreds of people queuing from the early hours, to adults snatching items from children. Reports like this are yet another way Black Friday is painted in such a bad light, and why UK shoppers opted to shop online instead. If last year's Black Friday experience really did put people off venturing out this year, then it had an effect on all high street retailers, whether they participated or not. In my opinion, the main disadvantage is that although it's a good way to increase sales and get people talking about the products and deals, at this time of year there's always going to be an increase in sales. Let's face it, people are always willing to spend money at Christmas. This year UK retail sales in November have dropped by 0.4% compared to last year, yet sales on a total basis were up 0.7% at the end of the month. Industry experts, such as BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson, still expect to see an increase in consumer spending in late December. What now? Some of the retailers that were prepared for another busy Black Friday have reported disappointing sales and are planning to hold flash sales between now and Christmas in order to make up for the substandard performance, which means the eagerness for Black Friday could potentially harm Christmas profits. It might also mean retailers are discouraged from joining in with the Black Friday promotions next year. With Black Friday proving to be more of an online event this year, I'm guessing that this is the direction we're going in the UK. I don't think we've lost faith in Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but I do think we can expect to see more online deals in November 2016, as consumers have started to favour digital platforms anyway. The communication around safety could be handled better next year, especially with fewer horror stories from this year's sales, which could mean we'll see more people heading to the shops and getting back into the 'battle for the bargains' spirit. Either way, here's hoping everyone gets their hands on the best Christmas offers in time for 25th December.  

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