It’s a Tuesday, but I’m not sure what colour I should attribute to the day? Taupe perhaps? The manic obsession given over to Black Friday is, according to many, the shape of things to come. There are a number of images shared from the day of spending frenzy that stay in the mind. I prefer not to recall shoppers fighting over Christmas presents. It doesn’t quite gel with celebrating the birth of Christ.
My favourite was a picture shared on Twitter of Batman slapping Robin, exclaiming: “You’re in England!” I was in Scotland, but I very much share Batman’s sentiment.
We are told by Retail Week & Microsoft that 31% of Brits spent money on Christmas presents on Black Friday. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? But how many spend money on Christmas presents on your average, run-of-the-mill grey Friday at the end of November? 29%? 32%? And was it really to do with Christmas … or just a seasonal blend of bargain hunting and shifting stock?
Our media has become obsessed with stats – usually percentages – that mean very little. And it is the very strange perception that often smaller numbers sound big. 31% of Brits spend money on Black Friday gets coverage. I was not great at maths, but I do know that means 69% were not suckered into it. Black Friday began as a day of shopping after America’s Thanksgiving Day. It has little or nothing to do with the UK. Why not have our own version? Oh yes, we do. It used to be called the New Year Sale … superseded some years ago by Boxing Day.
The headline “more than two thirds of Brits shun Black Friday” doesn’t have the same ring. Living in Scotland, the same happened after the referendum. The 45% who voted ‘yes’ to an independent Scotland have won more headlines than the 55% who voted no. Odd isn’t it.
What I find most depressing is that this time of year is fast becoming all about discounts. Forget new year sales, Black Friday has now attuned shoppers to cheap deals for Christmas – and lots of them. John Lewis reported the Black Friday week as their most successful ever with a 20%+ rise in sales. And this is no longer about just your neighbourhood’s shops. US department store, Macy’s, was offering a further 20% for Brits online. Then we had Sofa Sunday (seriously), Cyber Monday and Manic Monday. My Taupe Tuesday’s looking good.
I have worked in and around retail for over 20 years. One thing I know for sure is that you give a discount today, shoppers will expect one tomorrow … and bigger. The obsession with forever driving down prices is unsustainable. Something’s gotta give – and it is usually one or all three of the following: the company’s manufacturing base, the product’s quality and/or customer service.
Retail Week has just published a survey. It says the survey shows “price is vastly more important than experience.” I beg to differ. There was a classic clip on TV recently when a reporter was stopping shoppers outside a small convenience store and asked what sways their decision when shopping – price or convenience. “Price, definitely price” was the respondent’s answer. A follow up question posed: “But wouldn’t what you have just bought been cheaper at the supermarket up the road?” A pause. “Well, yeah. But this is closer. It’s more convenient.”
Price is key. It is a natural driver, but for the two-thirds of us who are forecast to spend money with Amazon in the coming weeks, it is not all about price. We choose online because it is seen as easier. Cheaper, maybe. But definitely easier and – by definition – more convenient.
The key stat in RW’s survey that didn’t make a headline is that more of us (84%) are forecast to spend online this year than on the High Street (81%). I have been saying it for a long time: High Streets need to be more savvy. More convenient. More open. More welcoming. More engaging. Thankfully, some are waking up and smelling the myrrh.
Roll the clocks back 2014 years. If the Internet had existed, I wonder whether the Wise Men would have price checked their gifts, ordered them online and had them delivered by a courier? Sign here please.
Magi Monday? Camel Tuesday? No … Wise Wednesday. A day when you buy gifts in person … to be delivered in person. Price does matter, but not as much as the act of giving. So Merry Christmas … and I hope it’s a white one.
This Blog was first published on Huffington Post