Black Friday first took off in the UK properly in 2013, championed by retailers like Amazon and since then, sales over the post-thanksgiving weekend have soared.
Now, Walmart-owned Asda, who were one of the first retailers to really promote Black Friday in 2013 have decided to pull out the event this year, and they’re not alone in feeling scepticism towards it.
Here in the UK, Black Friday used to refer to the Friday before Christmas, when a huge numbers of office parties and general festive merriment meant that the emergency services were on high alert.
Now, with cut-price deals causing riots in shops as they did last year, it seems to have come full circle.
Not only have police warned shops to up their security presence, but they have also implored some to cancel the sales altogether.
Explaining why they have pulled out this year, Asda released a statement saying that: “instead of the hustle and bustle and pressure of one or two day sales where customers typically push the boat out on high-value items, this year Asda customers say they’d prefer deals on value-for-money, high-quality products.”
Asda’s plan is, essentially, to offer decent deals across the holiday season, rather than focussing their efforts on a two-day riotous extravaganza.
This is a pretty good strategy.
And they’re right in their estimations of customer interest as well.
Consultants at Verdict Retail conducted a survey of customers in the UK and found that only 37% planned on shopping during Black Friday; down 10% from last year.
Kate Ormrod at Verdict Retail put this down to “concerns over crowded stores and bad experiences with late deliveries of online orders last year”
What You Searched For
When we look at Google Trends search data for a few key terms, we can see that even in the US, interest (at least in terms of search volume) peaked for ‘Black Friday’ back in 2011 and has more or less stagnated since then, and interest in terms of volume has been waning for the term ‘Cyber Monday’ over the same period (we’ll come on to this later).
Interestingly, while the term ‘sale’ consistently out-does season-specific terms like ‘Black Friday’, it regularly experiences a dip around October/November, just before Black Friday year in, year out.
In the UK, we have less established patterns of search for ‘Black Friday’ and ‘Cyber Monday’ since they are relatively recent phenomena over here, but the rise in interest was dramatic last year.
As you can see though, the seasonal dip in volume of searches for the term ‘sale’ still occurs, and has been since before Black Friday was properly introduced.
Which brings us nicely onto our next point:
A Deal Isn’t Just For Black Friday
Deals during the festive season are nothing new; January sales are always huge shopping events, and many shops offer deals in the run up to Christmas anyway. Even around Black Friday, the discounts are less concentrated around just one day.
Amazon, for example, have been offering Black Friday deals since Monday, and they’re not alone.
Morrisons managed to get in their quick and nab the pithy title ‘Black Five Days’ for their week of deals.
Argos are another retailer to join the ranks of the Black Friday sceptics. Although they have said that they are “not going to step back and not compete” this year, they did not experience a surge in sales over the post-thanksgiving weekend last year, instead reporting an even spread of sales throughout the run up to Christmas.
Despite all of this though, analysts are predicting that this will be the biggest Black Friday ever in the UK in terms of money spent.
Cyber Monday seems to have become something of an elephant in the room.
It was introduced as an online-only partner to Black Friday but research has shown (and the search stats back it up) that it’s become more or less superfluous.
65% of British shoppers plan to do all of their Black Friday shopping online anyway, and last year so many went online to shop that several websites crashed, leaving many customers disappointed.
Amazon has always, historically, profited massively from Cyber Monday but even last year, their figures were higher for Black Friday, with 5.5 million products sold. And this year, with deals on offer for the entire week, Cyber Monday looks to be even further overshadowed, in keeping with the general trend of a lack of concentration of deals over a 24 hour period.
Cyber Monday did, just like Black Friday, experience its biggest year in 2014 in terms of sales, and all signs point towards the same thing happening again this year. But, if I had to guess, I would say that at the very least growth will slow over the next year and not only that, but it will be harder and harder to come up with exact figures for either as both dates slowly but surely morph into one long week of carnal commercial chaos.