Why Black Friday just doesn't work on the UK High Street

Retailers are cautious offering decent deals – and rightly so – says PCR editor Dominic Sacco
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UK retailers are too cautious of handing out decent deals – and rightly so – says PCR editor Dominic Sacco.

Is it just me or was Black Friday on the UK High Street a bit of a damp squib?

As I walked around my local shopping complex in Chelmsford this weekend, I saw Black Friday sales signs splashed all over the stores, from the most established chains to local independents.

But I couldn't help getting the feeling these retailers were just attempting to put on a bit of a show just because Black Friday has become a better-known sales period in the UK. They didn't want to miss out - and I applaud them for taking the initiative and trying to increase sales.

However, there was one vital thing missing for me. The deals on offer just weren't good enough. Sure, there were the odd 20 per cent off promotions and buy one get one free on smaller items, but where were the half-price TVs and super discounted high-ticket items?

In the US, Black Friday made a name for itself because of its seriously cheap deals. It was one day a year where retailers and vendors really went to town, cleared old stock and offered customers an exciting day full of low-price shopping.

I didn't see that on the UK High Street this year. Why? There are several reasons you can likely point to.

Tech retailers have said time and time again to PCR and their partners this year that they're cautious of Black Friday sales harming their Christmas sales throughout December. This caused customers to purchase later than usual (in the final days leading up to Christmas Day), and forced retailers to rethink how they sell during this period, ahead of the traditional January sales.

Then there's the fights, stampedes and scuffles that some supermarkets saw last year, with the police getting involved in some instances. Bricks and mortar retailers will not want a repeat of that.

The UK is also a very different market to the US. Margins are tighter and competition arguably more fierce on our shores. Take Best Buy for example - the US retailer tried and failed to open UK stores because it didn't properly adapt to the European market.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in the UK. We passed the estimated £1 billion sales milestone and Amazon had its biggest sales day in the UK, selling more than 7.4 million items.

But is it worth all the effort on the High Street if retailers aren't going to offer similar deals?

Physical stores should stick to what they do best - offer products in person, provide expert advice and a specialist service that customers just can't get online - and leave the madness to the etailers.

What are your thoughts on Black Friday and what your business did around it? Please email me and I will include the best comments in the next issue of PCR.

Image source: Shutterstock

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