Booksellers anticipate Black Friday and inaugural Civilised Saturday

Booksellers anticipate Black Friday and inaugural Civilised Saturday

Bookshops are gearing up to hold the first Civilised Saturday, with events and discounts to attract people into stores cited as the "antithesis to Black Friday".

Black Friday falls on the day after Thansksgiving in the US (27th November), with retailers offering massive discount on products.

This year is set to be the biggest UK Black Friday on record, with consumer spending expected to hit £1.07bn, a 32% rise on the same day last year, according to analysts Experian/IMRG.

Coinciding with the final pre-Christmas pay weekend for most people, last year the offer received widespread press attention when at least three people were arrested and police were called to supermarkets amid fears of crowd surges as shoppers tussled to get the best deals.

This year the Booksellers Association has encouraged booksellers to host a Civilised Saturday on 28th November as the antidote to Black Friday, calling on bookshops to provide a calmer counterpoint to the mayhem by serving prosecco and cake to customers while playing classical music, for example.

Many indies handed out Civilised Saturday flyers during the Books Are My Bag Big Bookshop Parties in October, seizing the opportunity to entice customers back into the store nearer to Christmas.

Cornwall's Bookends of Fowey is offering customers 10% off all stock, and new children's indie The Bookworm of Selkirk, in the Scottish Borders, is hosting a Famous Five Tea Party. Wenlock Books in Shropshire is offering customers prosecco and cake as well as a book-curating and book-wrapping service. The date also coincides with a Christmas fair being held at Dulwich Books in south London.

Lesslie Oliver from The Bookworm in Selkirk, which opened in July, said: "Last year Black Friday was all a little bit bonkers, wasn't it? I don't think the Black Friday proposition - everything sold at a huge discount - is really the right proposition for books and book lovers. I think Civilised Saturday works much better for bookshops and our customers. I think it is a lovely idea."

Jasmine Denholm from Wenlock Books in Shropshire said: "We are going to have a pleasant afternoon in the bookshop, celebrating, handing out prosecco and, in the afternoon, we will have an afternoon tea, handing out cakes and fresh coffee.

"I think Civilised Saturday is a lovely idea as the antithesis to Black Friday, especially when it is a small shop. Customers expect to have huge discounts on Black Friday and small shops just can't offer them. It's a nice event to continue on from Books Are My Bag, by encouraging people to use the high street."

Foyles will run offers over the weekend, but not across all titles.

Marketing manager Simon Heafield commented: "We have trialled blanket Black Friday discounts in the past, but there is no evidence that they brought in more customers. This year, we will focus on a limited, deep discount on one item or range, as well as using the day to launch our half-price Christmas titles promotion, which will run throughout the month."

Heafield added that the following weekend Foyles' Charing Cross flagship would host its first Foyles Christmas Craft Fair, with hand-made gifts such as vintage Christmas cards and classic book brooches, as well as macaroons and fairy lights.

Rik McShane, retail director at Waterstones, said the company would increase the number of titles in its half-price offer, albeit not significantly. "Black Friday is interesting because it does bring people onto the high street," he said. "We don't do a huge amount to change our shops because we think coming into our bookshops should be a relaxing experience and a distraction from the madness of the high street.

"For us, it is looking at the price offers. There will be a few more books on offer at half price than normal. We normally have five or six titles at half price and there will be eight to 10. I think people will expect a bit of a deal but we will not be entering into the madness of Black Friday. In reality, it lasts all weekend, but Civilised Saturday will act as a good counter to that."

Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst, said the Civilised Saturday promotion "sounds like a great idea", but warned that deep discounting could result in customers expecting cheap products throughout December. He said: "The big issue about Black Friday is how much the discounting pulls forward business that retailers would otherwise have got at full-ish price before Christmas, and how far it reduces consumers' willingness to pay full price in December. But you shouldn't underestimate the profitability of 'planned' discounting, when retailers work with suppliers."

Last year's cascade of online Black Friday orders also put pressure on the delivery network, with courier Yodel ceasing to collect orders from retailers for a whole weekend in December in order to deal with the backlog, leading some Waterstones customers to complain.

Waterstones has since switched its courier to Royal Mail but Yodel, which works with 85% of UK retailers, has put in place new measures to manage a surge in deliveries this year. A spokesperson for the courier said it had worked closely with retailers to agree in advance the number of parcels it will accept into its network each day, and would place limits on its next-day delivery capacity. New trailer loading plans have also been agreed with clients to increase efficiency.

Dick Stead, Yodel's executive chairman, said: "Last year's 24-hour flash sales caused tidal waves of parcels; overloaded trailers arrived each day over the cyber weekend. Simply by spreading the duration of the sales and offering a wider range of delivery options‚ rather than using 24-hour delivery as the default service‚ retailers can instantly help to create more capacity in the parcel industry and enable us to offer a consistent, high-standard and cost-effective service."

Asda - one of the first stores to participate in the promotion in the UK - revealed on Tuesday (10th November) that it would not take part in Black Friday this year, claiming that "shopper fatigue" had set in "around flash sales on big-ticket, non-essential items at Christmas".