Dr Eleonora Pantano, Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the School of Management, shares her expert opinion on Black Friday and how this year it may be very different due to COVID-19.
Since the 1980s, Black Friday has been a way for retailers to turn from the red ink (meaning money loss) to the black ink (meaning profits) in their accounting books. Nowadays, Black Friday has become a mass phenomenon and a ritual for many shoppers, while losing the association with the day after Thanksgiving for non-Americans. We usually associate the word “Black Friday” with “great deals”, massive discounts and huge savings. With such large savings on offer, this often resulted in consumers forming very large queues out of the store. For this reason, it is now considered the busiest day of the year for shopping!
The success of Black Friday in many cases pushed retailers to extend “Black Friday” to include the entire week, often resulting in extended opening hours with stores open 24 hours or exceptionally until midnight. However, due to the COVID-19 safety measures, store crowds and gatherings are forbidden, while store entrance regulations might be needed to preserve the safety of consumers while in the shop. As a result, limiting all the deals to one day only (or even to one week only) is not sustainable for retailers this year.
What do we expect for Black Friday 2020 (27th November)?
Pre-determining the number of customers that can safely and satisfactorily access the store in compliance with physical distancing measures is still an open area of research. Indeed, consumers are not equally distributed along the store floorspace, and some areas can be fuller than others, by witnessing the simultaneous presence of consumers under the 1mt or 2mt required physical distance. Also, consumers tend to display discomfort and to adopt coping strategies when they perceive other persons invade their personal space. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic with the high risk of contagion, consumers might change their shopping behavior and deviate from their paths inside the store if they perceive that the minimum physical distance is infringed by the presence of other shoppers.
This year, the Black Friday crowd is prohibited due to the high risk of COVID-19, retailers need to revisit the event if they want to save Black Friday profit. Amazon for example, anticipated brick-and-mortar rivals by promoting Amazon’s Prime Day big sales already in mid-October, soliciting consumers to start their seasonal shopping earlier.
Are we about to see Black Friday 2020 easily becoming Black November…?
Recommendations for consumers
As Black Friday 2020 comes after a year affected by a long outbreak, it’s no wonder retailers would try to push on the sales, and aim to sell older collections not in sale (or online only) during the lockdown. Retailers have also witnessed a fall in consumer demand and reduction of purchases in many sectors, with emphasis on luxury.
There is the possibility that consumers can make huge savings (more than compared to last year). However, consumers should clearly consider: (i) if the purchases deserve the worth; (ii) don’t wait for the last week of November for the promise of Black Friday big discounts; (iii) alternative ways for savings, for example, by checking Christmas promotions of 3 for 2 in October (not subject to additional discounts for Black Friday); (iv) shop locally, local producers are usually not affected by Black Friday discounts; (v) research and choose your favourite products before Black Friday, then just go and purchase these items on Black Friday if they receive a satisfactory discount; and (vi) check the percentage of discount: would only 15% discount be worth the queue and (possible) crowds over the risk of contagion?