Retailers crushed in rush to attract Christmas shoppers

Black Friday backlash could be on the cards


Retailers are killing themselves and each other in their attempts to attract early Christmas shoppers on Black Friday, according to a retail expert from London Business School.

Elizabetta Camilleri founded SalesGossip in London Business School’s Incubator after studying for her MBA at the School. SalesGossip was the first online and mobile service to curate all fashion and beauty promotions online and on the high street, and now it is warning retailers that they are killing themselves and each other in the rush to attract Black Friday shoppers.

Ms Camilleri explains: “Last year Black Friday hit UK stores for the first time. 142 retailers on SalesGossip, mainly national chains, had Black Friday or Cyber Monday deals in 2013. But the transatlantic migration of this shopping phenomenon is killing retailers.

“The retailers are telling analysts that they will sell more stock full price. But in practice this isn’t the way they are incentivising customers. Black Friday is yet another bargain buster in the sales war that is forcing retailers to slash prices. This year, on 28 November, a 50% increase in the number of retailers offering Black Friday promotions is expected. The margins of smaller retailers and independent stores stocking limited pieces from a number of brands are at greatest risk.”

Even luxury brands which have previously steered clear of discounts for fear of devaluing their brands look set to follow suit.

But SalesGossip predicts a Black Friday backlash and is advising retailers to get ahead of the curve, calling time on the transatlantic tide that has quickly become an anchor for early Christmas shoppers. It’s a tall order, “but retailers can’t afford to keep following the herd”, Ms Camilleri says.

“In the last month alone 244 retailers on SalesGossip went on sale plus 14 sample sales. Holding a one-off event in a non-sale period, or charging full price when other retailers are on sale, is a more effective way to stand out from the crowd.”

According to SalesGossip, retailers will also be forced to get more creative with our shopping experience. Offering crèche facilities could also be a boost to retailers’ fortunes. For most of us, SalesGossip finds, shopping is at heart still a hobby and women are more drawn to sales than men. While men tend to shop for specific items, women spot the sales first and browse for the best bargains second.

And, while research shows that 60% of us browse bargains by mobile phone and tablet, between 80 and 95% of us actually still purchase items in-store. It’s a statistic that lends weight to Ms Camilleri’s prediction that we are on the cusp of seeing a return to the shopping experience of 20 years ago.

One thing is for certain, with 60% of high street leases expiring over the next four years, retail is facing a revolution.