SPECIAL REPORT Black Friday: was it good for you?
By Simon Hacker | 28th November 2023
As the dust settles on Black Friday and yesterday's Cyber Monday, did consumers in Gloucestershire shop till they dropped or spare their feet and shop wisely?
In the USA, where of course the trend was born, it is reported that consumers spent a record $9.8bn. According to data from Adobe Analytics, that equates to a 7.5% rise on 2022.
Over here though, the final tally might not look so buoyant: the Guardian warns that while revenue might come out level with 2022, inflation will need to be factored in - and fewer items will have actually been purchased. Perhaps surprisingly, the average discount on items on sale, according to credit firm Klarna, was just 1.5%, while Barclaycard said transactions were up just 1.4% in the week leading to Black Friday when many promotions had already begun.
The Guardian reported: "By lunchtime on Friday, some retailers had seen a slight uplift, but online activity was flat and footfall down more than 5% at shopping destinations."
Early evidence suggests a trend in high-street behaviour which won't surprise business stakeholders: punters may be wising up to the real value of this retail period and becoming less swayed by advertising pressure to buy now or regret at leisure.
Online analysts Retail Dive also blame inflation as the smoking gun for spending caution: "For weeks ahead of Black Friday, retailers have been encouraging consumers to spend on what is typically considered the busiest and most important day of the year for the industry," said the website, and the response was to trail deals and offers in some cases up to a month ahead of last Friday.
In Cirencester, which switched on its Christmas lights on Saturday night to a "packed" crowd, retailer Sarah Somers, who is secretary of the town's Chamber of Commerce and runs the Now Vintage collective, said shoppers have wised up to the US-imported event.
She said: "Black Friday can't resonate with the High Street, not least because the public have grown to realise it's a complete spoof. I think Chris Roach, who runs the ThirtySix menswear shop in the Market Place, summed up retail feeling: he put up a sign with his usual dry humour to explain why he wasn't doing Black Friday - we need to make a profit to stay in business!"
Activity around the date, Ms Somers added, was quieter than usual. "This contrasted with the town being packed on Saturday night and it points towards how the high street is changing in the way the public use it. People are going to the Market Place and buying from stalls, they want coffee, waffles and food and drink."
So from now until Christmas Eve, what would Gloucestershire shopkeepers like as an early Christmas present? From her perspective, Ms Somers said there is just one measure that would offer a helping hand to business: free parking.
"Cirencester car parks have gone cashless and we have raised the matter with the District Council to ask whether, given the costs of management, the financial benefit of charging for parking outweighs the discouragement shoppers feel. Make parking free and you are investing in the commercial activity in the heart of our town," she said, adding that while any trend for businesses to decide to drift to industrial estates could be acted upon.
Chris Roche, owner of ThirtySix, added: "My own view is that it'll soon be gone. Black Friday is essentially for e-tailers, but it encourages a cycle of consumer waste where stock is piled high in the knowledge that it can be dropped at that time. We offer curated, locally specific products which relate to our customers. So this season, we made no offers but donated 10% of all trade to the town's food bank."
● Black Friday owes its existence to the USA trend for shoppers to begin their Christmas purchases, on the first Friday after Thanksgiving. In the 1950's, the term began to be used in reference to traffic issues caused by shoppers flocking to the shops.
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