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Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, is upon us. Stores will promote heavy discounts for 24 hours on the 25th of November in an attempt to pique consumer interest. The concept, which originated in the US to describe the day after Thanksgiving, is now capitalised upon by UK merchants in an effort to increase sales.  

Given the media hype, Black Friday is top-of mind for many. The high-involvement situation fosters a sense of urgency and competitiveness that gets people in the mood to spend. This innate competitiveness coupled with supply scarcity also leads consumers to think more strategically about their choice of where and how to shop.

Dr. Rajesh Bhargave Assistant Professor of Marketing explains that “Black Friday is seen by many as a shopping ritual, an event in itself and not just a means to acquire products.” 

He continued, “Many consumers want to experience the immediate gratification of getting a great deal in a competitive environment. They also enjoy the serendipity of finding products that they hadn’t considered before. They look forward to Black Friday shopping as a social experience—a way to spend time with friends and family.” 

Yet, as recent news articles have pointed out, an increasing number of UK consumers will take part in Black Friday shopping, not in stores, but online.

Many consumers are annoyed by the disadvantages of buying in-store, which are particularly pronounced on Black Friday. UK shoppers worry about crowded stores, rude customers—even violence, and that some heavily promoted products and discounts will not be available
Dr. Rajesh Bhargave
Assistant Professor of Marketing
Rajesh Bhargave

It remains to be seen how consumers’ choice of where to shop—online or in-store—will change the meaning of Black Friday for UK shoppers and merchants.

Dr. Bhargave continued: “In the UK, the majority of retail purchases are still conducted in brick-and-mortar stores despite having one of the highest e-commerce rates in the world. The role of e-commerce is growing and in some product categories and households, it now accounts for the majority of retail purchases. However, even e-commerce companies expect that brick-and-mortar stores will continue to be an important channel for the foreseeable future.”

Dr. Bhargave believes that Black Friday highlights some of the features of in-store shopping that has helped this channel sustain. He continued, “The immediate gratification, serendipity, and social experience—these features are key to the Black Friday ritual, and they are also advantages of in-store shopping that encourage consumers to return again and again to the brick-and-mortar merchants.”  

So, while today may polarise opinion on shopping in-store versus online, Black Friday offers retailers the opportunity to increase spending among consumers with very different shopping preferences.

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