Black Friday is now an integral part of our shopping calendar in the UK, with the annual event is expected to break the £1bn barrier this year. However, while it enjoys significant hype, the event isn’t right for every retailer.
This year Asda – one of the first big retailers to imitate the American tradition, is the first to publicly opt out of Black Friday. This may be a surprise to many, but it's a smart move for the retailer.
The decision, which follows unprecedented numbers of shoppers hitting Asda stores last year, shows Asda is listening to its customers and staying true to its brand values.
Chief executive Andy Clarke said customers had told the supermarket "loud and clear that they don't want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales".
Asda, which has recently reintroduced its pocket tap advert, is dedicated to offering consumers smart prices all year round. In this context, Black Friday deals, while popular, are actually at odds to Asda’s promise to its customers: to offer everyday smart prices.
Of course, the move is not without commercial risk, but by sticking to its values, Asda is making it clear that they are listening to customers and trying to offer them the experience they deserve.
There is a precedent here.
American outdoor and fitness retailer REI, has already announced they will be shunning the annual sales day. They are actually going a step further than Asda and will be closing their doors on Black Friday, urging customers to “opt outside” instead of shopping because “there’s so many other days to get the same deals.”
This works well for REI because, although extreme, the move is entirely on brand and makes customers, and staff, feel even better about shopping with the retailer. But should other retailers follow suit?
The obsession with Black Friday means that every retailer now believes it should be offering massive discounts across its stock.
But rather than just reacting to this sales day and lining up as many deals as possible, retailers should be thinking about whether it is right for them to be participating in the annual day.
Does it fit with their promise to customers and staff – those who have to man the tills on big sale days so we can still shop – does it reinforce or add to the experience customers expect?
If the answer is no, then they shouldn’t be planning any activity specifically for Black Friday. Retailers like John Lewis, for example, shouldn’t be running Black Friday specials – instead they should continue to price match their competitors.
Whether more retailers decide to opt-out of Black Friday or not, estimates for this year’s sales are still likely to be achieved as consumers hold back to take advantage of the deals they know are coming.
The challenge for retailers is how to create and execute engaging experiences that keep customers coming back time and time again regardless of the season.