Black Friday's Funeral
Did someone say Black Friday? We’re only asking because it seemed to flop this year, big time. Is it the world waking up to the damaging impact of huge sales (we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, large sales expose large profit margins), or is it a combination of the cost of living crisis, the World Cup and post lockdown shopping habits, causing brands not to reach their targets?
Also, has anyone else noticed the sales this year were - for want of a better word - “worse” than usual? We might sound hypocritical as we just said large sales expose large profit margins, but since when was ‘20% off’ a Black Friday deal? That’s just a regular end of season sale. We can’t quite imagine an American mother of 5 camping outside Macey’s for 20% off. Nobody’s shoving people aside for 20% off. If this is the start of Black Friday’s funeral, we won’t be asking for a box of tissues, but we’re confused why brands are still hyping up this shopping event but not delivering quality discounts. We’d love to see some brands talk openly about the ethics behind mass discounts and call out brands offering them.
But why are sales plummeting and why are the discounts smaller than usual? We’re here to take a deep dive into what factors are leading Black Friday to death's door.
How It Started
It all started in the pandemic. Locked inside our houses, some of us having much less work to do (besides incredible key workers), whether we were furloughed or able to work a full day without the commute on either side, a large amount of the population took to online shopping to fill their time. During the first and last quarter of 2020 we were in lockdown. High street stores took a hit, most of them having to close for the majority of the year. People were too scared to venture out for fear of catching COVID. This pattern repeated itself in 2021 when Omicron emerged just before Christmas. No one wanted to risk their Christmas day for shopping, so many people hid away and bought gifts online, us included.
Let’s face it, lock down wasn’t easy for any of us, and when we feel down capitalism knows a little retail therapy promising 3 seconds of joy is a safe bet. In other words, low self esteem or feeling a little sad is usually fuel for impulse purchases to attempt to bring some joy into our lives. Sat at home, bored and hoping for the pandemic to magically end, millions of us decided to make online purchases we wouldn’t usually. So, with the figures higher than ever throughout lockdown, it’s not too surprising they’ve decreased now that things are more normal.
How It's Going
Fast forwarding to now, we’re in a cost of living crisis- meaning all of us have to be more careful with our money than before. Most of the population have far less disposable income than usual, so naturally shopping isn’t at the top of our list. As well as this, the World Cup is going on which is a major distraction for a lot of the country, who needs online shopping when the football is on? We can’t say we’re fully part of that group, but some people out there enjoy football (so we’ve heard).
In short, doom scrolling online stores and impulse buying for that late night serotonin rush doesn’t hit the same when you’re either worried about paying bills or enjoying physically going into stores. Inflation is showing no signs of slowing, so it’s no wonder less of us can justify novelty buys this sale season. Holiday revenue growth was at 32% in 2020, now it is estimated to be a mere 2.5%. Black Friday is definitely in her flop era it seems (same bestie).
With the outside world open again, online Black Friday sales don’t seem as appealing. For the first time in three years, highstreet stores are open again which has led to a clear rise in highstreet shopping spending, as in person stores saw a slim increase (2.4%) in sales this year.
It’s not only that, postal strikes are deterring people from shopping online. People seem to be concerned their orders will get lost in the post so they are staying clear from online orders. Opinion Columnist, Andrea Felsted from Bloomberg highlights that when people shop in discounted stores, they don’t like buying full price items again. This means those that are used to shopping during online sales wont fancy spending their money on full price items in person, meaning a whole lot of people are shopping less generally.
Also, let’s not ignore the fact that inflation is causing some brands to have to be careful of their spending habits and profits. A lot of brands perhaps can’t afford the sales they used to offer, for fear of impacting profit margins. Amazon is about to let go of a record number of team members and H&M are also having to say goodbye to more staff as part of their ‘cost cutting programme’ - both as a result of inflation and less online sales.
Living in a consumer driven society means it’s rare anyone turns down a good sale. Capitalism has tapped into ‘Self Care’, now we can’t escape adverts and brands telling us how their product will change our lives for the better. Inflation and the cost of living crisis is not something to be celebrated, but a minor positive is that it is encouraging us to think more about what we really need. However, it would have been nice to come to that conclusion without a national crisis.
Brands might be feeling the pressure to lower their discounts or not take part in Black Friday at all, due to environmental awareness and pressure from consumers. Those brands that have released sustainability statements throughout the year may be aware of the contradictory nature of a 70% off sale after claiming their price point was high enough to pay their workers a fair wage.
You probably heard us and many others say this on Black Friday, but the best deal is already in your closet. You can’t get cheaper than something you already own. It must have been our Instagram post that encouraged people to stop shopping and realise they already have enough clothes. Jokes aside, maybe there is something to be said for growing environmental awareness causing people to opt out of sale shopping and shopping (when they don’t need to) generally. But this could just be us being optimistic.
Did we miss something? What trends did you spot this Black Friday. Join the conversation on our Instagram or Twitter, @whering__.