Is your small business taking part?
If you're anything like the business owners we've spoken to over the past month, you'll likely be opting out of the festivities or putting a spin on the occasion to make the sale work for you.
Falling on the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday is the day that most people consider to be the start of the Christmas present-buying season. Shops typically offer mammoth discounts and customers queue up from the small hours of the morning to get their hands on the best deals.
Although, saying that, with the rise of online shopping, the queue lines have dwindled as people seem to now prefer to do their sale shopping from the comfort of their homes.
In fact, the Guardian reports the rather funny story that, in 2017, ‘at a branch of Currys/PC World on London’s Oxford Street, the doors were flung open at 7 am and only one shopper, who had pre-ordered a laptop, was waiting.’
And now the offers typically begin before the Friday, with some even starting as early as the Monday morning. Since 2013, shops have been prolonging the length of the sale due to the high levels of profits made during this period. So now, as well as Black Friday, we also have Cyber Monday – appropriately named with the rise of online activity.
Online shoppers or offline shoppers... the sales still take place and are still popular amongst many retailers – a point backed up by data provided from IMRG, which shows that the amount the UK spent in 2017 was a colossal £1.39 billion, up +11.7% on the previous year. And with 91% of retailers in the UK taking part in the sales in 2017, the day is a clearly proving a massive success for many.
But, while Black Friday is now one of the biggest sales opportunities for many businesses in the UK – what about the small businesses? Is it a big deal for them?
We asked in a Twitter poll to find out...
And as you can see, there seem to be some businesses that are offering a discount, some that aren't – and some that are opting to take part in the buying part of Black Friday as opposed to the selling part!
So while this poll gave us some idea of what small businesses felt about Black Friday, it introduced some more questions...
Are we joining in, creating special offers for our customers – many of whom may automatically expect sales on the day? And if we are taking part, are we really prepared for the increase in sales? Are we putting any safeguards in place to encourage the sale to be a success?
Though many of the big businesses are making huge profits from the event, is Black Friday something that's actually alienating the smaller businesses?
And do smaller businesses feel the need, or pressure, or keep up with the bigger businesses and put a sale on – even if it doesn't make the best business sense?
Or are small businesses rebelling against the norm – not taking part in a day of discounts, as they simply cannot compete with the deals that the larger businesses are offering.
We were intrigued...so we had a chat with a variety of small businesses to find out...
And here's what they said...
Rosie Johnson | Freelance illustrator
‘I don’t participate in Black Friday as I simply can’t compete with the big companies. I tend to do offers and little sales all year round to thank my customers but I don’t find that Black Friday really fits with my business approach. I want people to buy from me because it’s a fair price all year round and it’s something they really like. Black Friday simply feels like a ‘buy it because it’s cheap and you can’ phenomenon!’
The Summerton Club | Premium spirits subscription club
‘We're going to offer a limited edition Swedish Single Malt Whisky, not sold in the UK for Black Friday. But will only have limited stock.’
'Through our collaboration with Mackmyra, an amazing Swedish whisky distillery, we have the opportunity to bring something exclusive to the UK, their Gruvguld Swedish Single Malt Whisky. It's a limited edition bottling that isn't available in the UK and soon all bottles around the world will be gone. Black Friday gives us the perfect opportunity to share this masterpiece, of which we have limited stock, so will be first come first serve.'
'Our offer is simple and limited...we don't need complexity. We only have forty bottles to sell and will not be selling anything else. This means that there is nothing to really run away from us and when they're gone, our Black Friday sale is finished.'
Lala and Bae | Ethical, sustainable, family lifestyle brand
‘It’s really tricky for us – because we are a small ethical business, the consumerism of Black Friday is sort of at odds with our sustainable side, and as a small business it feels more loyal to reward our customers rather than give blanket discounts to try to compete with the high street, so we haven’t previously done anything for Black Friday on our own site.'
'We will offer a deal to our customers though. We are also planning a hat incentive for a kids cancer charity where we will donate our merino wool hats to kids going through cancer treatment. Just finalising the details with the hospital before we launch it – for any hats bought between now and the 31st December, we will donate a hat for every 5 bought. This is a really lovely way for us and our customers to give something back.’
The Little Vegan Company | Luxurious products made using natural and organic ingredients
'As Black Friday is towards the end of November, I think I’ll pop a post up on my feed during the week before to advertise – and then on the morning of Black Friday, I’ll offer an exclusive discount code for my customers to use for that day only.'
'I’ve only just started my little company so I think I’ll be okay with the demand of orders. My only worry would be the postal service during Christmas time, and I’d hope all of my customers received their items in good time!'
Lunr | A platform for managing your subscription services
'For Black Friday, Lunr plans to get as many subscription deals and discounts into users' hands as possible. We will be finding the cheapest deals on beauty boxes, food boxes and online streaming services and listing them on our site and social channels.'
'We're actually working on a feature at the moment that will allow us to upload deals to the site more quickly.'
'As we're an online business, we have made sure that our site is able to handle a large number of users, and we should be able to deal with any extra demand that comes our way on the day.'
'We will also be keeping a close eye on the performance of the website. We would love to hear any user feedback about the site's features, or ways in which we can make it more user-friendly!'
Tilly & Sage | Home decor and gifts
'We won't be taking part in Black Friday because it’s hard enough for small businesses to survive in the current climate. We don’t have the profit margins like international companies, nor is our stuff mass made, so I just feel like it puts unnecessary pressure on small businesses to conform even though they’ll probably lose out because of it. Plus, it’s well known that the ‘super’ deals are just a marketing ploy to get you through the doors.'
So, after chatting to the small business community, it seems they are split into two camps when it comes to Black Friday.
The first is the small businesses that don’t want to take part as they either feel like they're unable to compete with the deals of the bigger shops, or they know they it most likely won’t bring a huge influx because of the nature of their product.
Interestingly, Black Friday was originally set up to help stores who felt that the Christmas shopping period was not creating enough revenue for them, so it was built to help look after small businesses who need help and support.
But now it seems it's for the masses. Large stores are the ones that profit the most and smaller businesses are overlooked and made to feel like they're unable to take part.
There are some really incredible campaigns that come into the spotlight around this time of year that rebel against Black Friday, with the creation of weeks such as Just A Card Day, Indie Friday, and Folksy Friday. These campaigns encourage people to buy small this Christmas and support the smaller businesses while they do so.
But then there's the second camp that's made up of small businesses that are able to support the numbers and who have big plans for the event – sensibly only offering a sale that they know their business operations can handle.
And that's the most important thing, really.
Whether taking part in a Black Friday sale or any sale at any time during the year, it's so important to not only check you've got your offer and marketing sorted – but to double check your business can cope with the potential increase in sales from a technological and logistical point of view, too.
If you've not put any safeguards in place for your Black Friday sale yet – or if you want to get some tips ahead of your next promotion, take a look at our blog where we share the some of the top ways to be Black Friday ready, focusing on getting your business tech, logistics ready to have a successful sale, if you're having one!