Black Friday: Damaging Hyper-Consumerism or Retail Relief?

By 16 November 2022 December 1st, 2023 No Comments

Black Friday, a US retail tradition, crossed the pond in the last decade and slowly cemented itself in UK calendars. Businesses across the globe will have spent time gearing up for this upcoming weekend of hyper-consumerism. With Black Friday slowly shifting online, businesses can take advantage of this shift towards online shopping and sales by investing in an online payment solution. For large retailers, Black Friday is a perfect opportunity to shift stock by lowering prices to maintain profit margins. Smaller businesses are stuck between a rock and a hard place. Participating in Black Friday is trying to go up against larger retailers who can afford more significant price drops. However, by abstaining from offering Black Friday deals, you are closing yourself off from the potential of acquiring new customers.


The Emergence of Black Friday in the UK


First emerging in the United States, Black Friday marks the end of Thanksgiving. This holiday that has yet to immigrate to the UK. Retail giant, Amazon, brought the retail holiday to the UK in 2010. We have seen the event grow in popularity year after year, with more businesses participating. Additionally, Black Friday has spilt over from being a singular day to an event weeks in the making. Retailers now begin to entice customers with discounts at the beginning of November. Black Friday alludes to the promise of increased sales and discounts, increased traffic to stores and websites, a new customer base, and the ability to shift unsold stock.

This year, consumers need discounts and deals amidst the cost-of-living crisis and inflated prices. Black Friday and Cyber Monday – a retailing holiday now largely redundant with Black Friday migrating online sphere thanks to online payment solutions – are important sales events to consumers in the run-up to Christmas. Another factor to this year’s retail event is that Royal Mail workers are staging strikes over the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend. The strike has been proposed to take place on the 24th and 25th of November, covering Black Friday. Later strikes are due on the 30th of November and the 1st of December, two days after Cyber Monday. These strikes will cause delays to consumers accessing their discounted goods.


The Reality of Black Friday


Although there is the promise of increased sales and online traffic due to websites incorporating online payment solutions, there are many negative aspects surrounding Black Friday. Firstly, businesses may be at risk of declining in sales in the following weeks, with consumers holding off paying for goods when they know of an upcoming sale. Consumers may refrain from spending outside this sales holiday due to the drive to save amidst the looming recession.

A further negative to Black Friday is the possibility of consumers being tricked into believing the sales event will be lowest prices. Companies entice customers by advertising the promise of ‘huge’ savings. However, PriceSpy compared and monitored 6,000 online stores in 2021 and found sinister results. They have reported that online retailers pre-emptively raised the prices only to slash them back down for Black Friday. 18% of products met increased prices in October. This finding indicates that the bargains consumers think they’re getting may be a return to normal prices. PriceSpy also found that two weeks after the event, 17% of products were, in fact, cheaper than on Black Friday.

Finally, Black Friday has a negative environmental impact. With the sudden spike in sales comes an influx in demand for cardboard and plastic packaging. In addition, more deliveries in the days following the retail event lead to a spike in air pollution due to vans being idle in traffic and having to make more trips.


Deals that Kill Businesses


Small businesses are facing negative affects of this holiday. Compared to larger businesses, they may be unable to afford large discounts that rival or beat bigger businesses. Many of products in small businesses are priced reasonably. Considering the materials and time taken into creating the items, trying to maintain a profit margin while also pricing low enough that customers will return.

We live in a society of choice. If one business charges what a consumer deems too much, the consumer will not struggle to find a similar, if not the same item for cheaper. If small businesses try to match the larger discounts offered, they may risk not seeing a profit from the sale. Significant discounts are only sometimes profitable and worth it for businesses. Instead of being pressured into offering discounts on a particular day, small businesses may hold sales at other points during the year. This has led many small businesses to boycott the retail holiday altogether. Retailers boycott the events by not only refusing to take part but also by temporarily shutting down their websites.


This Year Add Colour to Your Calendar


A counter-campaign has been launched as a response to Black Friday. Holly Tucker, founder of notonthehighstreet, launched Colour Friday in 2021. Colour Friday works to promote independent retailers and smaller businesses. Their call to action is to shop local and to appreciate the colour and creativity that goes into small businesses. The campaign’s website has published some worrying statistics concerning Black Friday. They found from a recent poll that half of UK small business owners voiced genuine concern that this Christmas will be their last trading. Additionally, they found that the carbon emissions generated from Black Friday online sales alone are equivalent to 215 flights from London to Sydney.

Colour Friday’s mission is clear; shop local this holiday season. Consumers can vote with their money. Rather than lining the pockets of large corporations and contributing to the environmental impact this retail holiday promises, shop local and save local businesses.