Three quarters (73%) of small independent retailers say Black Friday is bad for business and loses them sales, as people are drawn to global or UK retail giants promising significant discounts, according to a joint survey by shop local platform, Shopappy, and small business free publicity platform, Newspage.
The survey, of 1000 small retailers based around the UK, also revealed that eight in 10 (81%) respondents say Black Friday is putting pressure on them to lower their prices to remain competitive, at a time when margins and profits are already down due to the cost of living crisis and soaring inflation and energy bills.
Unsurprisingly, nine in 10 (89%) survey respondents said they would like to see the annual shopping event removed from the UK calendar altogether, with one describing it as an ‘annual kick in the teeth for small independent retail businesses”.
However, some retailers see Black Friday as a “necessary evil” and something they “begrudgingly” embrace in an effort to drive some quick sales (comments from a selection of survey respondents below).
Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force and founder of local shopping platform, ShopLocalOnline.org and Shopappy, commented: “Having weathered the pandemic and now facing an unprecedented economic and cost of living crisis, the small independent shops that line our high streets need our support more than ever. Many are saying this Christmas could be their last if sales aren’t strong and Black Friday could be the final nail in the coffin as it bedazzles consumers and encourages them to spend with big business."
Jukka Väänänen, CEO of Newspage, added: “Black Friday, in the eyes of the vast majority of small retailers, is a trashy American import that should be binned once and for all. In the current economic climate, independent retailers are already under the cosh and then along comes an event that costs them sales and puts pressure on them to cut their prices. While the vast majority of survey respondents were against Black Friday, some were ambivalent and feel they have no choice but to roll with it. They see it as “a necessary evil” and one that it would be unwise, commercially, to ignore.”
But it doesn't have to be black as Jess Magill, co-founder of Devon-based micro-brewery, Powderkeg explained: "The frenzied consumption of Black Friday has never sat well with us, so this year we wanted to see if we can use the platform to make a positive impact on our local environment with We’re turning our backs on the excessive consumption of Black Friday to try and do something more positive, which we're calling #GreenFriday. We’re donating 20% from every sale on our website during the weekend to the Devon Environment Foundation to support environmental regeneration in Devon. As a small independent brewery business, much of our trade is done in the local area and so it’s very important to us that we put as much back into the place where we live as we can.
For Ruth Bradford of Bristol-based The Little Black and White Book Project it's a case of taking advantage of the situation: "Black Friday is a funny old time for a small retail business. If you join in, you're often seen as the black sheep of the community, somehow showing solidarity to big corporate money giants. In my opinion, the reality is that you're a fool if you don't join in in some way or another. It's one of the biggest shopping events of the year when people are all over the internet spending their cash. As a small business I want a piece of that. Sure, I can't compete on discount, but I am offering free products as an incentive to shop with me.
Far most importantly I am part of the conversation, I am noticeable because I've made a fuss about it, I've changed my homepage, posted on social media and sent emails. Whether it makes me a profit or boost sales, it's yet to be seen but in such a tough market you have to use all of the tools you can to attract customers to your store. Granted it doesn't work for every business but there's always a clever spin you can put on a seasonal event to make it relevant to your values. It's just good business sense. And the worst thing you can do is lament people for looking for Black Friday deals, as no one likes to be told - or told off - about how to spend their money."
A view shared by Steph Briggs, owner of Girvan-based La Di Da Interiors: “Black Friday is a necessary evil as a small retail business. I begrudgingly embraced it for the first time last year and decided to overlook the margin hit for the quick cash injection. Given the snail's pace of business this year I have no choice but to do it again. It’s a delicate balance between not alienating your existing customers and offering bargains for mass appeal. It’s tough.”
It's a love/hate thing for Bryony Lewis, founder of the Wareham-based online gift website, T & Belle and simply can't be ignored: “I want to hate Black Friday, and in many respects I do. I hate the version of it that involves stampedes of people flocking to huge retail giants who are flogging substandard electronics at slightly less inflated prices than usual. But I cannot argue with the fact that for several years running it has been the strongest sales weekend of the year for my small business.
Last year, I made more during that weekend than the entire previous month. So instead of shunning it, I try to embrace it and shout about shopping small rather than lining the pockets of the big stores. I feel that ignoring Black Friday weekend when the future of my business depends on a good last quarter would quite frankly be foolish.”
However it's a complete no no for Natalie Ormond, founder of Leeds-based sustainable lifestyle store, Smallkind: “As a business and a consumer I don't do Black Friday. It goes against all my values. Money is tight for all of us this year. We really need a good Christmas season sales wise but I still won't get involved in Black Friday. Price slashing and over-consumption are my main issues with Black Friday. Both promote over-buying and are detrimental to small brands. By joining in we'd just be part of the problem. Yes I get why lots of small businesses feel they need to drop prices, especially this year when people are struggling to stay afloat but this kind of consumerism is not good for the planet or our pockets as even the most conscious shopper can get swept away by it.”
And in Kilmarnock it's the customers making the decision for Craig Hume of Utopia Computers. “Our local customers love the fact that we refuse to jump on the Black Friday bandwagon. They understand that we are here to offer them good value all year round, not just for 24 hours once every 12 months.”
What did you do for Black Friday ... or Black Week as it seems to have become. Was it a winner, a loser or something to ignore completely. email us at email@example.com to let us know.