British Shoppers Call Out Black Friday's Charade

The Emperor's Clothes failed to impress this year as much as expected. Black Friday was predicted to see a double-digit surge in online sales and a single-digit decline in footfall. It was supposed to go down in history as the Black Friday that would show how the high street is a thing of the past. Instead, it showed a moderate increase online of just over 6% on last year and footfall on the high street was up nearly 3%, despite predictions of a 5% decline.

So online was nowhere as huge as predicted and there wasn't a slump on the high street, but instead a minor rally. Interestingly, the high street saw a slightly higher upward trend than the 2% rise at retail parks. Experts are lining up to explain it all away. The Black Friday they said would be massive last week is still evolving, so it couldn't possibly be expected to deliver double-digit growth in sales year-on-year. Oh yeah? Then how come so many people were saying exactly that last week?

Some smart experts have pointed out that prices have been kept low on the high street and online and many retailers were already running sales before Black Friday, as they had done throughout much of the year. 

However, I think a lot of the reason is due to the observations I made on Friday that are also being made in the comments section of The Times' article about the day not living up to the hype. The simple truth, in my honest opinion, is that people have been sufficiently warned off buying old stock at seemingly amazing prices. Not only are they aware the day is being used to clear shelves of old stock before December beings -- they are further aware that a lot of the sale prices are faked. Goods are put up in price momentarily so they can be reduced to a decent level alongside a "40%" off sticker. 

The public has wised up, I think. Retailers have had the perfect storm of a tough year, meaning that many have been discounting for months, combined with a public which now sees through the smoke and mirrors of those money-off claims. Certainly there are some bargains out there, but when Which? researched the day last year, it found the majority of bargains had been faked or exaggerated. 

So there you have it. Black Friday didn't grow at anything like the pace predicted because a year of discounting means the day didn't stick out and the public, in my opinion at least, has wised up to retail tactics.

Maybe next year's will be different, but I suspect not. The public has seen through the promise of Black Friday. 

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