Grey November

It’s an American import and just as another ultra commercial US calendar day ends with the close of October, as the ghosts and ghouls retire for another year, November brings the sales.

Because it’s not just a day now, Black Friday has stretched out with some retailers offering Black Friday deals from the middle of the month.

It started as a marketing drive to prompt sales as the Christmas shopping period begins in earnest, the day after America’s Thanksgiving holiday. A strategy that has seen enormous spending figures.

It began in the UK (brought here by Amazon) in 2010 and has seen year-on-year rises in both brand recognition and sales figures as more and more retailers join in.

But with the sales spreading out, going from a Friday to a weekend, to a week, is the whole point of the sale being lost? And what does that mean for the future of the marketing event?

2019 saw some truly impressive numbers with high street brands reporting their biggest-ever weekly revenue intake. The total takings for high street brands were £8.57 billion over the four day sale period – Black Friday to Cyber Monday. In 2020 the figure was £7.95 billion with 2021 takings expected to be around £9.42 billion according to a survey conducted by CRR for VoucherCodes.co.uk.

Is the whole point of the sale being lost?

Cyber Monday began shortly after Black Friday in an attempt by online retailers to capitalise on the buying frenzy during the period. And it worked.

So people are buying, but if the sale period keeps stretching out it’s likely we’ll see the numbers decline. The urgency created by a 24-hour sale promotion created a peak in spending, if the sale’s more spread out, it stands to reason people’s spending will be too.

ASDA, often credited with introducing Black Friday to British streets in 2013 (to mass reports of pitched battles in the aisles over TVs), said in 2015 that they weren’t running a specific Black Friday deal that year, they also skipped 2016 (though did introduce a sale over the period Black Friday in all but name – fewer TV fights, however) but in 2021 they have returned to offering Black Friday deals.

Interestingly though their reason for foregoing the sale in previous years was “shopper fatigue” with the intense sale period, mentioning that their customers expressed that they didn’t want to be held hostage over a tight sale period.

ASDA is often credited with introducing Black Friday to British streets in 2013.

So, is shopper fatigue a danger to Black Friday?

Well, that may be the case, at least online. There was a much smaller jump up of traffic on e-commerce sites on days preceding it to the levels on Black Friday in 2019, indicating a plateauing of interest for the sale.

Awareness of Black Friday continues to climb, with even places like Domino’s getting in on the action. It’s clear Black Friday’s brand recognition is at an all-time high in the UK. But as the sale window grows ever more steadily and outlets like ASDA veer away from the carnage of its initial foray into Americanism, it looks like the sale will gradually become more of a byword for a pre-Christmas sale season in the UK.

Some retailers are actively boycotting it in opposition to the commercial madness of it – ASOS and IKEA are two of the biggest that abstain and FatFace openly refused to run a promotion over the period last year, instead donating £100,000 of its profits to charity.

Still, this time of year will always encourage big spending (as there will likely always be as long as Christmas stays Christmas), but as an apparent, more conservative, British sense of the season takes over, that spend will be more spread out and will likely come with fewer mad dashes, brawls and tabloid glee.

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