Black Friday (today, 28th November) is a positive event for retailers which creates “excitement” around shopping, Waterstones m.d James Daunt has said.
As today's pre-Christmas day of discounts sparks shopping frenzy, Daunt said – speaking from a Waterstones store in Bath - that any event which motivated shoppers out to the high street was good for the retail industry.
While the chain bookseller has not explicitly offered any Black Friday deals, it has been running a half price on books promotion all week, which it won’t be offering next week.
Black Friday, which originated in the US as the day stores offer heavy discounts following Thanksgiving, has taken hold in the UK with vigour this year, with British companies like Tesco, Sainsbury’s and John Lewis taking part. The promotion day was brought over to the UK by Amazon four years ago.
Some analysts have warned it may do longer term harm to the retail industry because, as independent analyst Nick Bubb says “All Black Friday is likely to do is bring forward business from December, reduce gross margins and undermine consumer's willingness to pay full-price again before Christmas.”
However, Daunt thinks anything that brings an element of festivity to retail is positive for the industry. “Is it good for retailers to get a bit of bang and excitement which encouraged people to spend money? Yes. Halloween (as a retail event) was new not long ago and that was good for us, too. It propels people into Christmas shopping in a good way. We have not taken out press adverts and called what we are doing Black Friday, but we are saying we have a lot of good offers this week which we won’t have next week to customers.”
However, he said: “The reality is the promotion just flatters to deceive.” He added: “We are doing really quite well at the moment. We have been in growth for some time at the moment.”
While large online and chain retailers have gone big on the promotion, with police appealing for calm this morning (28th November) after being called to seven Tesco stores across the country to help with crowd control, independent retailers have largely resisted the temptation to join in the craze.
Tim Walker, owner of Walkers bookshops and president of the Booksellers Association, said: “I am ambivalent towards Black Friday really. From our point of view in our business, it is difficult to adjust prices on a short terms basis for one day. We tend to stick to the pricing strategy we set so we know where we are going for Christmas.”
He added, however, that indie bookshops were “incredibly vibrant” places anyway in the run up to Christmas, with lots of events and customers piling through the doors.
Amazon.co.uk’s m.d Christopher North meanwhile, has told the Telegraph he predicted Black Friday will generate more than 4.1m orders, the daily record for the company set on Cyber Monday last year.
“It is something we started in the UK, but I love the fact so many companies have jumped on the bandwagon because it makes it bigger for everyone,” North said. “It has created a genuine excitement with consumers. We are going to be out there competing to make sure there is only one place customers have to visit, that every Black Friday deal customers want is on Amazon. But I am sure that is what all our competitors are going to do.”