With Small Business Saturday just around the corner I’ve been speaking to other shopkeepers. The question on some people’s lips is “Will we still be in business by Saturday 5th December or will Black Friday have closed the door for good?
Horrible wet weather is never good for bricks and mortar retailers and the past week has seen plenty of it. Combine that with the inevitable calm before the storm of Christmas shoppers and it’s little shock that things have been quiet this November.
Like many other shopkeepers, I am jittery. It’s not just a lull, there is something real and threatening in this quiet. The general public is not just staying out of the rain, they are not just waiting until pay day, these past weeks customers have actively withheld their spending in anticipation of Black Friday sales.
Shopkeepers are not just worried because it’s quiet they are concerned that ‘Christmas is not coming’!
It’s obvious that small shops can’t compete with the massive discounts offered by the big operators and will only achieve a smaller piece of the pie on 27 November but Black Friday is changing the dynamics of traditional Christmas shopping patterns and not just for one day.
Black Friday is breaking habits in consumer spending. When people buy big ticket items before buying groceries or gifts, there is less budget for other treats in December. The peak Christmas trading period was severely dissipated by the effect of Black Friday in 2014 and it’s likely to hit small specialist retailers hard again in 2015.
More threatening though than depressed sales and decreased margins is the interruption in the relationship between a customer and his/her preferred store. We all know that buying from the likes of Amazon on that one occasion leads to a deluge of targeted offers in our inbox as well as retargeted marketing all around the web. However, the impact of giant companies successfully interrupting customers existing relationships and preferences in ordering and delivery cannot be underestimated and it’s an area in which small businesses with limited resources cannot possibly compete effectively.
John Lewis has been much quoted this month as having “no choice” but to be a part of Black Friday. Asda might claim to have opted out of Black Friday but they are still using it as a vehicle to advertise their broader discounts. With the big guys continuing the discounting trend in one form or another, it’s inevitable that Black Friday is set to be even bigger than 2014 and my small business cannot afford to miss out. My small shop, Revival Retro, will have to run a Black Friday sale.
Revival, like many small businesses, has been planning for Black Friday for the last 12 months. Burnt by last year we have since geared all of our stock ordering, inventory management and marketing around an expectation that the ‘Christmas rush’ will be shorter and more specific than ever before. It’s a good strategy but we can only hope it’s enough.
The initial idea behind Black Friday was a short sharp shock to stimulate the Christmas trading period. In 2014 there seemed to be an element of choice whether UK businesses wanted to participate in this newly imported American phenomenon. What most surprised independent shopkeepers was not the hordes queuing up at midnight but the subsequent fall in Christmas trading.
In the wake of Black Friday 2014 businesses big and small scrambled for sales offering more and more discounts creating expectancy amongst customers that there was an even better deal around the corner. Businesses that had ‘hung on’ for lucrative Christmas sales were sorely disappointed and many went to the wall in the following months.
So will customers walk back though our doors from Saturday 28th 2015 and will they be prepared to pay full price for the rest of the traditional Christmas trading period?
I believe that after Black Friday 2015 loyal customers of my small shop will return to me. I am positive that Revival will continue to win them over with the quality of our products and the standards of our service. I believe that customers see value in what our small shop offers and they will be willing to pay our prices. Certainly from the rave reviews and votes we received to win a Time Out accolade of Best Shop this November I have to believe this to be true. The reality, however, can only be measured in customer footfall over the next few weeks.
Will Black Friday be the death of my small businesses? No. I’m doing everything in my power to make sure it’s not. But I have no doubt that more independent shops across the UK will close as a result of Black Friday 2015. We small businesses just can’t compete with massive discounts or the operational logistics of the big gun omnichannel companies.
The discounts will continue to grab people’s attention but the question is whether it will change their behaviour forever. All that small independent retailers can do is to continue to act with integrity and deliver something special and different for which customers wouldn’t want to go anywhere else.
I am available for further comment on issues relating to small business, independent shops, niche retail and e-commerce. I am the owner and founder of Revival Retro Boutique but am very much hands on in the day to day running of the business. firstname.lastname@example.org