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What motivates consumers to shop on Black Friday?

Tuesday 24 November 2015

This year Black Friday, the most popular shopping retail day in the UK when prices are slashed, falls on November 27, a phenomenon adopted from the USA, the day after the US bank holiday Thanks giving.

In preparation for this one day, it’s almost like planning a military operation – lists are made, targets are identified and routes are planned and all set to go. A day when even the most balanced of shoppers can go crazy as witnessed from the chaotic fighting scenes in stores last year and reported throughout the media and social network sites.

In recent years Black Friday sales have grown. In 2014 UK Consumers spent £810m on online purchases alone with a further £720m three days later on Cyber Monday.  This year UK’s most popular brands such as; Tesco, Curry’s PC World, Halfords, Argos, John Lewis, Boots, Asda, eBay and Amazon can look forward to even better figures. The forecast by the Centre for Retail Research for the 24-hour period is to surpass £1bn with online sales estimated to be £966m, total sales to be around £1.39bn and even better - £3.5bn for the whole weekend.  Therefore, given our appetite for bargains retailers are gearing themselves with even bigger promotions to tempt their customers. But why are so many of us motivated to shop on Black Friday and what makes some of us behave in irrational ways?

In 2014, Black Friday Sales were helped by the increase of 2.3% in UK disposable income - the fastest rate of annual growth since 2010. This gives consumers the confidence to spend more, and let’s face it, with crazy offers so near Christmas we are ready to part with our money.  Offers like Amazon’s limited-time “lighting deals” from midnight on Monday 23rd November for instance, they are offering deals like Moshi Monsters 7-inch Kids Tablet, £119.999, now £25 (Prime Early Access Deal),  Braun Series 3 3080 Men's Electric Foil Shaver Wet/Dry, £139.99, now £39.99, and  LED Lenser X7R Torch, £149.95, now £59.99.  Some of us get excited by the buzz and the adrenalin rush of fighting our way through the temples of shopping malls or waiting impatiently biting our nails for the slow loading websites. 

However, realising that not all shoppers are inclined to stress, retailers like Argos this year are running a campaign called “Red, White and Blue Fridays.”  They are offering deals on three Fridays prior to the 27th November and according to their Managing Director, David Robinson, shopping for Christmas is stressful enough and so spreading the deals over three weekends should make it easier for people.  Asda are even going one step further and are no longer participating in the event this year,  even though they are widely credited for making Black Friday popular in the UK. Instead, they are reducing prices by a total of £26m over November and December rather than holding customers “hostage to a day or two of sales.” 

Nevertheless, for some consumers competing and getting what they want at a much reduced price - or even in some cases what they don’t want, gives them a sense of achievement. They take the pleasure in telling their friends and families around the Christmas table or sharing with them on social network sites of the “trophies” they have won.  This is great for the brands as we do all the marketing for them through ‘Word of Mouth’.  While those with limited funds may take the long-term view and seek out opportunities on Black Friday to “stock up” not only for Christmas, but for other future occasions such as Birthdays, Eid, Valentines Day, Bar Mitzvahs etc. And therefore, it can be argued, that Black Friday has to some extent, changed our purchasing behaviour - what we buy, when we buy and how we buy.

By Dr Tahir Rashid: Senior Lecturer in Digital Marketing and Strategy, Director of PGT Programmes: International Marketing and Services Management at the University of Salford