Black Friday Bargain Bagging – is it worth your life?

In the US, 7 people have died and over 98 have been injured since the introduction of Black Friday events in 2006. Surely it cannot be worth losing your life for a cheap TV.

With Black Friday looming, you have to question if keeping physically safe is among the main factors why online shopping has overtaken a shop visit for the hyped up Black Friday bargains.

Fascinated to find the reason for the term Black Friday (other than it is a day of death and disasters for some), I googled a few sites and found out 2 interesting meanings of the term

  1. Black Friday was first used in the US in 1950’s for describing the traffic jam chaos, unruly behaviour and shoplifting that occurred the day after Thanks Giving in Philadelphia by their police force.
  2. In the late 1980’s the terms was repurposed to describe retailers financially moving from the ‘red’ into the ‘black’ and seeing a profit for the first time that year.

In the UK, Black Friday was worth around £5,000m in 2016 outstripping the growth in popularity of Cyber Monday (I suspect everyone is either exhausted or spent out by then).

Foot traffic is falling and people are turning to the comfort of the armchair and their mobile to participate in Black Friday events. A very much safer approach given the crushes and shopper rage than can occur as people play tug of war over the last… well anything.

However, in the UK, we have seen that not all of our popular high street retailers have the appetite for the Black Friday tussle. Asda who introduced Black Friday into the UK in 2013 from their parents Walmart quickly lost the appetite for the activity and stopped in 2015. Likewise, Argos, Primark, John Lewis all reduced their participation in the event. Some retailers were also concerned about both public and colleague safety.

However with customers turning to shop in safety from home, additional pressure is put on retailer’s websites, with many crashing leaving customers frustrated and dissatisfied with their experience. John Lewis reported that for every minute their website was down they lost £75K of sales last year.

It will be interesting to see how many more customers choose to armchair shop rather than risk their life in the crush within stores again this November. I predict that with the rise of mobile transactions, and more mobile friendly websites that customers will firmly bypass the stores this year. For those bold enough to high street shop, the experience will probably feel delightful and possibly lacking the vice like squeeze of yesteryear. How quickly customer behaviour changes. Which retailers will have geared up their businesses for these changes? Guess we will all know by November 28th.