My Column

Super sales day is not black magic

  • Date: Monday 2nd December 2019
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For years now Black Friday has been a huge success for High Street retailers, but has the novelty finally worn off?

Last week’s event felt somehow less of an event than it has in previous years and I find myself wondering both on why that is and where the future lies for it.

An increase in spending was predicted long before the bargains were being advertised, but so was a decrease in actual footfall and money actually changing hands in the bricks and mortar stores. We’re not just talking the high streets here incidentally, but the shopping malls and out of town retail parks too.

Since we here in Scotland first bought into the concept back around 2012, Black Friday has been a bonanza for retailers and shoppers alike, with billions being spent each year as consumers raced to grab bargains in everything from tech goods to fashion and everything in between. On one day a year, prices would be crazily rock-bottom and punters would be queuing around the block at least a day before to ensure they got first option on them.

That all seems be a thing of the past now though, as the constantly-evolving nature of retail has seemingly moved on somewhat.

Naturally, as it does for the rest of the year, online shopping must bear a large part of the responsibility for the decline in bodies through the door of shops. The genie is out of the bottle as far as that is concerned and the battle retailers face to stay afloat never mind compete is well-documented, not least  by myself on this very page.

Political and economic uncertainty are playing their part too of course, with consumers tightening their belts either by choice or necessity, while costs related to running physical stores seem to be continually on the rise. Sadly these factors are all just the reality that retailers need to cope with nowadays. But we already knew this.

No, the interesting thing for me is the moving of the goalposts of what Black Friday actually is.

Stores of all sizes, such as Amazon, ASOS, Hanon and John Lewis started their sales up to a week before the actual day, drip-feeding the bargains in instalments. This is actually a smart move as I see it, as it allows them to get a jump on their competition, while easing the strain on what are sure to be a mountain of deliveries needing despatched.

Customers too are seeing the day in a different light too. It wasn’t all that long ago that overnight queues and near-riots were almost expected, but with the rise of smartphones, many are choosing to bargain hunt from the comfort of their own homes. More tellingly, the novelty looks like it has worn off.

The current climate has seen stores desperately needing to encourage spending all year round, so people have gotten used to flash sales and deep discounts. By the time Black Friday comes around, all too often, those bargains don’t have that same lustre as they once did.

Retailers have found themselves in a difficult position, forced over and over to reduce prices, whilst finding their own costs rising all the time. We’ve now reached a point where even rock-bottom prices can’t guarantee consumer interest. It’s undoubtedly a cause for concern and one I’m not entirely sure there is a solution to.

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Sidebar

Our urban roads may look like they are becoming more congested every year, but it seems many of us think we should be able ditch our cars in favour of other modes of transport. New research from charity Sustrans Scotland via YouGov has made for very interesting reading, with urban Scots agreeing they should have the ability to get from A to B without getting behind the wheel.

For many, I’m sure the prospect of tackling the school run and the commute on foot, by bike or using public transport seems like a marathon effort.

However, if we’re to meet Scotland’s net zero emissions target by 2045, we will inevitably have to adapt our habits. After all, transport is the single largest contributor to Scottish carbon emissions.   

Just this autumn, a new bill was passed that will help instate low emissions zones in our biggest cities and impose levies on employers who provide parking facilities.

In the centre of Glasgow, for example, it’s already becoming prohibitive to drive, with new on-street parking charges and bus gates imposed in recent months. Change is definitely in the air.

What we need to ensure, though, as we embrace our environmental responsibilities, is a commitment to making our main centres of commerce more accessible.

For starters, everyone should have access to reliable public transport. And if recent research is anything to go by, that is not always the case. Tackle that and we’ll have firmer footing for the journey ahead.

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Laugh

Workers at an Edinburgh office space will likely be toasting success after a new self-service alcohol zone was green lit last week.

We Work Community Workspace - which offers hot-desking and space to rent - was granted permission by City of Edinburgh Council for a supervised, self-service drinks facility within its premises on George Street.

A daily limit is being imposed to ward off any chancers, however while they’ve satisfied the authorities that it will be policed responsibly, will they satisfy the business test? You’ve got to wonder how its introduction will affect productivity.

We Work obviously think it’s worth a shot.

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Weep

It’s widely acknowledged that December can be a challenging month financially, with gift buying and parties galore to factor into household budgets across the nation.

So, last week when business consultancy CGA warned that the cost of Christmas dinner might be on the rise, I’m sure a few eyebrows were raised.

Following a reduction in the number of turkeys hatched this year, alongside supplies of vegetables taking a hit, the fear is that prices will be pushed up to compensate. If that is the case, you’ve got to wonder if the Christmas menu as we know it will be off the table in Scotland or if people will stump up extra cash in the name of tradition.

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