Even in the high value markets where my clients tend to operate Black Friday is an event in the calendar, and in retail, it is huge. So can we learn anything from the Black Friday event? Is it just a case of big retailers trying to help hard-up consumers? Maybe, but it’s also a lesson in PR strategy.
With modern retail supply chain technology, there’s no reason for a retailer to have unsaleable stock on the rails at the end of the season, and we no longer see the massive retail clear-outs of the past.
Black Friday gives retailers a chance to kick-start the busy Christmas shopping period and maybe attract shoppers away from the websites and back to the stores. It may be a chance to divest some older stock and there’s no doubt an element of the loss leader principle – large discounts tempt shoppers in, but they may well buy the newest stock that’s arrived for the festive season.
My feeling is that Black Friday is a PR coup – PR strategy expertly executed. It grabs the headlines just before Christmas, with good news for everyone: amazing discounts for consumers, staggering business turnover figures, and stories of jammed websites for the technology audiences.
The huge transformation to online trading could perhaps be one of the drivers for the Black Friday event. An online retailer has no shop window, so outside its own customer base, it remains invisible. So online retailers of all kinds need to use the “traditional” advertising and PR routes to market – newspaper stories, tube ads and billboards – to advertise what they offer. They’ll be using digital channels and mobile apps too but it is advertising media that reaches the biggest audience. You may have noticed how well Uber grabs media space.
So why is it called Black Friday? Black Friday has its origins in American history, where maybe the first Black Friday was when the US gold market crashed on 24 Sept 1869 after two crooks bought all of the gold and created a financial bubble and then a crash that bankrupted all of the other investors.
Traditionally, Americans start their holiday shopping after Thanksgiving, and the streets became notoriously crowded. Was this the origin of the name? I prefer the modern explanation – that Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, is the day when retailers move into profit, after operating in the red for an entire year.