In my view – Colin Hicks: Black Friday. A dark day for retail, or a necessary shopping holiday?

By November 20, 2018In My View

I must say that Black Friday is well-named. This is one import from America we really could do without. It doesn’t even fit into our holiday times, being based on the lazy day that forms a bridge between Thanksgiving and the weekend.

Springboard, who measure our performance as a city against all others (4,500 other high streets they do say), can see that this cut-price bonanza means the nation’s physical shopping streets seriously lose out every time. Black Friday drives people online, cutting footfall by 3.7% on the day Springboard says, and by 2.7% over the whole weekend. The online spend over the fortnight is a staggering £10bn.

But maybe the fightback is beginning.

City centre shops and shopping are not dead and are not going to disappear altogether anyway. It’s all a bit like the book a few years ago, doomed by the appearance of the Kindle only to bounce back when Waterstones was bought by an independent bookseller and got their act together. Coexistence is possible.

The number of online Black Friday transactions is slowing. For whatever reason sales fell by 5% compared with last year. Maybe shoppers are getting tired of it? Some retailers certainly are and it’s of zero use to our independents.

Household incomes are still tight, many credit cards have been maxed out just like in 2007, and payday this year came after the event. Shoppers are also getting wise to the fact that the heavy discounting doesn’t actually mean bargains. Which? reported this week that almost 9 out of 10 Black Friday items sold last year could have been got for cheaper at other times.

And even the big retailers are finding Black Friday counter-productive, forcing them to slash prices right at the start of the Xmas spending spree when many make the majority of their annual profit. We’ve seen from our own footfall figures here in Chi that bringing Christmas spending forwards like that creates a whirl of spending too early on, which then depresses all further spending for every local shop owner or manager until the final mad week before Christmas.

These changes are being driven by consumers. If you’re one of those who want to keep Chichester open, tune in now to our Christmas Spirit radio station or buy a Chichester Gift Card . Our advice is always “Be Smart and Shop Local” but I might add to that: “Stay savvy and do it all year round”, if you want to pay a reasonable price, get personal service and help us keep this city open for business well into 2019. Happy New Year anyone?

Coin Hicks, Chair

Chichester BID (Business Improvement District)