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Retailers remain divided over UK's Biggest Black Friday yet

By Vivian Hendriksz


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Whilst the majority of industry experts urge UK retailers to prepare for the UK's "biggest Black Friday" to date, which seems set to break last year's records, a number of retailers have chosen to take a step back from the borrowed US shopping bonanza.

Fear that Black Friday may have a larger impact on pre-Christmas and Christmas trading have led to retailers such as supermarket group Asda to shunning the holiday shopping event this year. Although Asda, which is owned by US company Wal-Mart, has been credited for helping introducing the discount day to the UK, the company has decided to drastically scale back its participation in Black Friday this year following the in-store havoc and chaos the promotional shopping day caused in stores across the country last year.

Asda decides to withdraw from Black Friday

"The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event itself," commented Andy Clarke, Asda's President and CEO in the decision to step away from Black Friday. "This year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales. With an ever changing retail landscape, now more than ever we must listen carefully to exactly what our shoppers want and be primed and ready to act the minute their needs change."

"When it comes to putting customers first, Asda has always led the way, which is why we’re just as confident in our decision to step away from Black Friday as we were in introducing it to the UK," added Clarke. Instead of joining with the discount frenzy set to take place this Friday, Asda has opted to launched a series of special offers across the months of November and December.

Another supermarket chain taking a step back from Black Friday is Tesco's. Rather than opening its stores at midnight on Thursday night, as it previously announced, the retailer has decided to open 250 of its biggest stores at 5 am to ensure store employees have sufficient time to prepare for the invasion of bargain hunters. The decision comes as police chiefs across the UK call on large retailers to have sufficient security measure in place this Friday to maintain public order.

Whilst some UK fashion retailers boycott the 'borrowed' discounting day...

Fashion retailers Fat Face and Jigsaw maintain their decisions this year as well not to participate in Black Friday. Fat Face, who has not run any promotional offers prior to Boxing Day over the past five years, has chosen to donate 250,000 pounds to local charities rather than offering steep discounts on Black Friday. "Cynical discounting is not a sustainable model for UK retail. It leads to a lack of creativity, newness in fashion and joy," said Anthony Thompson, Chief Executive of Fat Face in an interview with the Guardian on their decision.

In addition, Jigsaw issued a manifesto online named "Reduced by Nothing; Standing for Something" which explains the retailer's decision not to participate in pricing events like Black Friday and its pricing stance. The statement goes on to explain that Jigsaw product only go on sale twice a year, at the end of each season, with its winter sale set to kick off online at 6pm on December 24. "Just don’t bank on finding that beautiful jacket; best sellers do sell out," reads the manifesto.

...Others continue to celebrate Black Friday as the kickoff to the Christmas trading period

However, in spite of several retailers withdrawing from the shopping bonanza, other high-street retailers continue to chant the mantra that this year's discount frenzy will surpass last year's records. John Lewis is set to maintain it's price matching strategy, even though the retailer's managing director Andy Street has raised concerns of the effect that the promotional day has on retail sector. "Black Friday has turned into our biggest week by a mile, and it will be bigger again this year," said Street.

Although he acknowledges Asda's decision to pull out of the holiday, he believes that it is unlikely to affect the majority of retailers and consumers participation in the discounting day as many stores plan for the promotional day months in advance. "It won't change what's going to happen this year," he added. In order to prepare for Black Friday, John Lewis has hired 2,000 additional workers to help with deliveries and is said to have invested tens of millions of pounds to ensure that all Black Friday orders are honoured.

Street adds that Black Friday will likely help the high street department store group "win" Christmas for the seventh year in a row, as Black Friday 2014 led to the retailer's largest sales hike in its 150 year history. "John Lewis has won the last six Christmases and outperformed the market every Christmas since the [financial] crash. This year it's got to be seven out of seven and I'm genuinely confident that the stall is set for us to do exactly that."

With online spend alone predicted to reach over 1 billion pounds in the UK for the first time ever, according to Experian-IMRG, the promise of the discounting day remains an tempting lure for UK retailers across the country.

Black Friday
Christmas shopping
Fat Face
John Lewis