Black Friday: Next, M&S and Wilko shun sales event
Some big High Street names have decided to shun the Black Friday shopping bonanza even though online spending in the UK is set to soar. Next, M&S, Wilko and B&M will not be taking part in the sales event on Friday, which is seen as a key trading day in the run-up to Christmas.
Several retailers told the BBC they were focussed on offering good value all-year round instead. Many shoppers use the annual event to buy discounted Christmas gifts. More than two-thirds of shoppers have delayed a purchase to try to find a bargain in the sale, according to research by Lloyds Bank.
It expects Black Friday spending in the UK to jump to £750m this year. Last year, it totalled £718m, although drawing annual comparisons is difficult as the event covers more days and more shops take part. But retailer Next has confirmed it will not participate. The decision comes after it reported that in-store sales have been badly affected by the pandemic and are about half of what they were by this time in 2019.
Despite the fact Next was a late adopter of Black Friday, previous sales saw bargain hunters queue up early in the morning for heavily-discounted clothes, homeware and furniture. High Street stalwart Marks & Spencer has also decided not to take part.
A spokesperson told the BBC that it hadn’t offered any “specific Black Friday deals” for the last few years, and that there were no plans to change that. “We focus on offering great value and deals throughout the whole festive season,” M&S said. The festive period will be crucial for the firm off the back of a difficult year, during which it reported the first loss in its history as a publicly-traded company. and was forced to announce 7,000 job cuts across stores and management.
Although sales of clothes and homeware slid during the six months to 26 September, its boss Steve Rowe has said that M&S was in a “much better position” in the run-up to Christmas.
The Wilko homeware chain also said there would be “no specific Black Friday activity”, and that it offered “great value products at great prices every day”. Discount chain B&M said that selling products at a lower price point throughout the festive trading period instead “avoids excessive crowds on any one day.” They added that Black Friday shoppers are often “chasing largely deceptive offers that do not represent real savings, or are only available in very limited stocks.”
Consumer group Which? recently found that nearly nine in 10 products sold on Black Friday are available for the same price or cheaper earlier in the year.
It urged consumers to “do some research”, which may include using websites to check previous prices, in order to spot genuine bargains during the sales.
The shopping bonanza, imported from the US, now sees shops advertising price cuts several days before the Friday after the Thanksgiving holiday.
Brands such as Jigsaw had previously pledged not to take part, opting for end-of-season sales instead. But in 2018, it launched its first Black Friday sale, saying that the “economic, political and retail landscapes have changed dramatically.”
But retail expert Kate Hardcastle told the BBC it “makes good sense” for retailers to shift away from the extended event. “[Black Friday] creates a challenging retail calendar for a lot of shops”, with many customers now expecting discounts throughout the year as a matter of course.
Although some sales might be lost, she said: “Brands need to remember it’s not just a race to the bottom on price and use it as an opportunity to shift attention elsewhere.” Companies such as clothing brand Baukjen, for example, is giving the profits made during the “Black Friday weekend” to charity, while footwear firm Allbirds will raise prices by £1 across all of its products and donate those proceeds.
Although many firms have been struggling with job losses, subdued sales and lockdowns in the face of the pandemic, Ms Hardcastle suggests this is a “key moment” for brands to make sure they are not just associated with discounts.