Black Friday In The Age Of A Pandemic

As we continue to rollercoaster through lockdown uncertainties, Black Friday arrived at a time when consumers needed to engage in some feel-good retail therapy, as well as stocking up on Christmas bargains given the pressures of continued furloughs and job insecurities. 

But what started out as a promotional opportunity following Thanksgiving in the USA has grown into a monster discounting period, which consumers have come to depend on, causing havoc and stress amongst both independent and major retailers in the lead up to what was once a busy Christmas trading period. Conversations have evolved from Black Friday and Cyber Monday call outs to Black Friday weeks or even months, enabling some retailers to hit monthly sales targets in just a couple of days. The simplicity of driving ongoing promotional offers across social channels is an opportunity too good to miss for most retailers, particularly now.  

Given the year retailers have had with ongoing store closures, Black Friday has provided a key opportunity to mark down and clear existing stock that has been lying idle in stock rooms or on shop floors.

However, the reaction to constant discounting will continue to affect top-line full price sales as the consumer becomes increasingly used to a bargain buying mentality. Customers are willing to wait for promotions, or shop around online to find a better deal, rather than purchase at full price.

Smaller independents are feeling the pressure too. Managing businesses through the pandemic has been challenging enough, but being forced to discount based on like for like shifts across the market will hit profits and potentially dilute brand equity. This, along with concerns surrounding sustainability, continue to fuel the anti-Black Friday conversation.

This year, more than ever, people have learned what they need in order to survive and live comfortably. Black Friday, synonymous with over-consumption, contradicts the growing movement towards sustainable practices and transparency on the high-street, and a more consciously-minded consumer. For the majority of the market there is real pressure for brands to protect their image, while simultaneously clearing stock and future-proofing for a looming recession.