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For years British consumers have been able to laugh at their American counterparts on Black Friday; which falls annually on the first Friday following Thanksgiving (this year it was November 27th). For one day retailers offer enormous discounts on big ticket items, prompting mass queues, fights and even riots.
Now however Britain has been firmly pulled into the fray as major retailers like Amazon, Tesco and John Lewis have begun to offer similar discounts of everything from DVDs to top end televisions. While 2013 say some sales labelled as Black Friday deals, this year’s edition was the first time retailers have made a collective, concerted effort to promote the event.
The campaign certainly worked as 2014 saw mass public awareness of potential upcoming deals and more than a few disturbances. Sales at Tesco and John Lewis in particular drew large crowds, mass hysteria and some fights; with some describing having their shopping torn from their hands by frantic rivals. The behaviour seen even prompted criticism from Chief Constable Peter Fahay, whose officers were called to 10 supermarkets over the day.
We Brits can however take heart in the fact that conditions have not deteriorated to the level seen annually in America. 2012 saw two gunshot wounds after a disagreement about a parking space, while this year cops in Texas had to break up a riot and forcibly remove people from $218, 50” TVs offered in a one hour sale.
Some have questioned whether the import of Black Friday is something to be celebrated at all. For one thing many promised “huge” discounts either failed to materialise or were severely massaged; for example online clothes retailer Asos were seen to push up some prices prior to Black Friday; only to immediately reduce them again for the “sale”.
Even when the discounts are real, mostly those on expensive consumer electronics, some might question whether the marketing techniques used are somewhat exploitative. Retailers that offer time limited flash sales know their offers will be enticing to squeezed families in the run up to Christmas, drawing huge crowds. The queues, exasperation and fights make good TV, and correspondingly good publicity, off the back of desperation.
Offering sales is by no means a bad thing, and many retailers offer deals throughout the holiday period. Here at Bedstar we’ve been offering Christmas reductions on hundreds of items for several weeks. We don’t invite website traffic spikes with flash sales and gimmicky offers, instead we’re offering great value for a sustained period and with hassle free delivery before Christmas! Hopefully, responsible retailers won’t feel the urge to join in the Black Friday rush, and continue offering discounts that benefit their customers rather than exploiting them.
So what are the best ways to snag Black Friday deals? For one don’t expect that all the best deals will appear on the day; if you have a wish list it may be wise to keep an eye out in the preceding days and weeks. After all, Black Friday is supposedly a “stock-clearing” exercise for retailers and, where that is truly the case, sales will follow.
You also don’t need to follow the crowds to find good deals, in fact the opposite applies. As this column notes, while shoppers were frantically fighting to get into John Lewis stores, other stores with the same discounts were more or less empty. To avoid making your Black Friday a contact sport, look online or be prepared to go further afield to seek your deals.