It’s closing time for Black Friday
Originating in the US, Black Friday is the day after thanksgiving when hundreds and thousands of turkey-stuffed shoppers flock to stores across the country and fight – often quite literally – for the holiday seasons’ biggest discounts and bargains. In recent years, the phenomenon has spread on an international scale, with retailers in countries across the globe celebrating Black Friday by slashing prices and opening their doors to a herd of sales-crazed consumers.
Coined ‘Black Friday’ for its mythicised reputation of pulling retail companies “into the black” (making profit) after being “in the red” for much of the year, the day has long since been considered a chaotic but lucrative cash-cow for retailers. The frenzy that surrounds Black Friday is a result of an – arguably – mutually beneficial relationship between consumers and retailers, whereby consumers can shop at discount rates and retailers can capitalize on a mass increase in sales volume.
Whilst almost all big retailers participate in Black Friday, a smaller number have backed out of the celebrations this year, citing unsustainability and rampant consumerism. US outdoor retailer REI has opted out for the second year running, instead encouraging its customers and employees to get outside and spend time with their families. Major UK retailers Asda and Next have also chosen not to participate, claiming that the promotional deals of Black Friday are simply unsustainable and unprofitable. As Black Friday 2015 saw a marked increase in online sales and a high demand for next day delivery, UK retailers report that “additional operating costs and the complexity of managing operational peaks” is cutting into profits.
Concerns about the profitability and morality of Black Friday sales have been echoed by national mall operator CBL & Associates, which has just announced it will close all 72 of its malls across 30 states for the Thanksgiving holiday. CBL’s announcement came just days after the country’s largest shopping centre, Minnesota’s Mall of America said it would be closing its doors for Thanksgiving for the first time in its 24-year history.
Although there are complexities that online retailers face over Black Friday, the growing number of offline retailers that are closing their doors to the festivities (for moral as well as financial reasons) may fuel a surge in the growth of eCommerce. Consumers will always be looking for deals, and if they can’t get them offline then they will undoubtedly turn to online platforms. By turning to online platforms for Black Friday shopping, consumers can click their way through the shops in a fraction of the time, and balance their hunger for discounts with their desire to spend the holiday with their loved ones. Opting to shop online gives consumers the flexibility to fit their shopping schedule around their family plans, giving online retailers a sense of morality when choosing to participate in Black Friday sales. If online retailers want to seize this opportunity, they must now focus on streamlining their logistics solutions and preparing their websites for a new wave of traffic over the Thanksgiving holiday.