Black Friday Sales started out as a uniquely American event - a sort of pre-Christmas sales event coming the first Friday after the National Thanksgiving Holiday - to commemorate the Plymoth Rock Pilgrims Landing. As it is now though, Black Friday is increasingly a global event - and has evolved in much the same way that Halloween has. Halloween never used to be celebrated in Iceland for instance, but you will find whole families involved in ’Trick and Treating’ and confectioners making special ’for the occasion’Halloween Treats - which has really only been the case for the last few years. Halloween is now being celebrated in the most unusual of places where this originally Christian calendar event had no real proper cultural resonance. In a similar way several nations now celebrate Christmas - in terms of eating Turkey and exchanging gifts when there was no existing national cultural marker for that either.
So Black Friday sales, much like Halloween and Christmas have become fully global events, and have proved a great way for retailers to shift old and slow-moving stock. And what started out as just a single day’s sale, has evolved for many retailers into an extended-calendar event.
Where we first just had Black Friday, we now have ’Cyber Monday’ too, and the cleverer retailers use the first day’s sales to gauge what they should do for the second - if insufficient items are shifted on the Friday - they can introduce further reductions or further items even to improve likelihood of success on the follow-up Monday.
In a trend started by Amazon - which does a whole week of special sales events, with specially promoted items each day - this has now too become the model for many retailers - seeing a gradual release of special offers on different days of the week. For most retailers you now have the 1-2 punch of Black Friday + Cyber Monday, with the days of the weekend involved too. A few retailers are very much using this as the run-in to Christmas and extending the sales period to cover the whole of the final week of November - inventory permitting!
With modern inventory tracking apps, retailers can react swiftly to evolving sales success - and introduce or pull back items from sale - depending on how well things are going. Amazon does a pretty smart attempt at sending out clever successive mailings indicating the best of the daily offers available. HOWEVER - of the few hundred items in my Amazon wishlist - not a single one is indicated for Black Friday Sale. Which is a pretty good indicator that Black Friday sales aren’t really always the amazing ’bargain’ events they purport to be. The same is the case on most of the Guitar Effects Pedal sites which I have wishlists on - the stock that is being discounted is largely older, end-of-line items which are either notoriously unpopular and failing to shift any units, or a deprecated model being retired from the catalogue, or soon to be replaced by a new and improved updated version.
I can remember the older Black Friday sales - where people rushed in to snap up heavily discounted large-screen TVs. Where it turned out that very few of those were bargains really - they tended to be already cheap and poor-to-middling quality sets specifically created for the discount market.
A significant proportion of retailers currently have 3 different retail lines - ’High Street’, ’Online’ and ’Outlet’. Many companies in fact (mostly American) - spoof and game the ’Outlet’ line, and Michael Kors is king of this activity - making its own lower quality, but just slightly cheaper ’lookalike’ bags for its outlet stores. Consumers think they are getting a bargain when they are really just getting inferior bags which look like their high street equivalents, but are really made from cheaper materials with fewer details and embellishments, and several shortcuts in the manufacturing process.
So the same is often the case for Black Friday - in that you may not be getting quite the bargain you bargained for. If you go to expensive fashion retailers - you will often see the same high-ticket-price items wheeled out for sales several times in a row. Never forget that this is largely just an exercise for the retailers to shift old stock from their inventory, and several of these companies already operate on significant margins, and they are still likely making a killing in the sales, even though you likely won’t.
Increasingly - you’re not getting quite the steal you thought you were. I myself don’t tend to participate much in sales - I don’t really like the dog-eat-dog aggressiveness of them, and I sort of prefer the loyalty scheme approach - where regular faithful custom gives you ongoing incremental discounts.
There is still a lot of room for improvement here - why for instance does Amazon not stick an indicator on your wishlist of Black Friday sales items, and promote them to the top? Either I am too specialist in my retail choices, or I am overlooking something here, as there really does not seem to have been anything of note in these sales.
Oh - apart from a 50% discounted high-ticket Logitech mouse - which I need for replacing my now ageing and cranky existing one.
As a final statement I will say that there are a number of retailers that offer genuine discounts - I’ve been emailed by several who are giving 30% off their entire range today. Others are offering as much as 60% off selected items - these though are most likely to have either been bought in in too large a quantity, or sat on the shelves for too long.
For consumers, I don’t think it harms to exercise some extra caution and further due diligence on exactly what you are getting. And retailers can improve this process further by using personalisation to identify to their customers the exact likely bargains they have for them. Musicians ’eBay’ - Reverb.com send me an email indicating which of my wishlist items were in the Black Friday sales - all retailers should really look to doing similar.