In case you hadn’t noticed, Black Friday, the Thanksgiving retail import from over the pond, is now a tsunami of selling that’s spilled over from Friday into a long weekend of discounting, ending with Cyber Monday.

But while the original Friday buying bonanza once generated crazy queues outside retailers, of late the physical thrill of the bargain hunt has lost much of its initial excitement.

A dark day for consumers?

Many potential shoppers suspect Black Friday is just a retail scam, as in a Which survey that found just four of 83 products they studied last year were cheaper on Black Friday. It appears 95% of ‘deals’ were the same price or cheaper after the sales day.

That may be, but the simple fact is we now do our Black Friday shopping online. Retail data company Springboard tracks shopper numbers at 450 different retail locations across the UK. They show that since 2011, when Amazon UK first introduced the concept to shoppers, high street footfall for December has dropped year-on-year. Last year it fell by 2.6% compared with the previous December, and this year is expected to contract again, by about 1.5%.


44% of us find online shopping more convenient, 35% find it easier to compare prices, 32% said they were easier to find, 24% thought they were cheaper, 22% said that shops were too busy by comparison, and 20% just don’t have the time to go out shopping. 

Of shoppers keen to snap up a Black Friday bargain, 45% were mainly younger men looking for new tech, 25% seeking video games/DVD/CDs, while 35% of shoppers wanted clothing and accessories, leaving 23%  – mainly women – wanting health & beauty products, followed by 18% buying homewares.

A bumper year

Fake discounts notwithstanding – recent figures from Barclaycard have this year’s Black Friday down as ‘outstanding’ compared with last year. Even the high street saw a jump in sales. According to Springboard, footfall – a gauge of shop visits – was up 3.3% on Black Friday in comparison with the same day in 2018. Shopping centres fared best, with visitor numbers up 6.5%.

Evidence shows that Black Friday sales simply displace spending that might otherwise have taken place in early December. That’s probably enough to keep retailers committed to the event. Springboard said it anticipated a lull in sales before a last-minute rush before Christmas, and expected Saturday 21st December to be the busiest sales day of the year.

Doing good on Black Friday

We’re pleased to note that Black Friday is increasingly a good day for charitable giving, so here’s a selection of some alternative Black Friday activity raising funds for good causes. 

Indie clothing store Lucy & Yak did something differently for Black Friday. Last year they donated 10% of sales to help send 36 girls to school near the L&Y factory in India, raising enough to cover their education for a year. This year they managed to smash their previous record and send 90 girls to school.

Said L&Y, “In a world where we have an estimated 12 years to fix the climate crisis, growing over consumption is worrying and we really wanted to use the increased momentum to make a more positive change, so you can get AND give this sale season.”  

Another idea for Black Friday to help those in need came from food order and delivery giant Just Eat, who pledged to donate 50p from every order placed on Black Friday to support FoodCycle, a charity who run projects across the country serving meals made from surplus food that would otherwise have gone to waste. 


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