Black Friday 2021 is almost upon us and, once again, the UK’s small businesses are asking what this annual sales bonanza means for them.
Post pandemic, even with unprecedented financial support from the Government, many businesses are still struggling to recoup the losses caused by long periods of closure. According to Sitecore, 83 per cent of businesses agree that this holiday season is make or break.
A day of slashed prices and boosted sales could be just the ticket, right?
However, this year, disillusionment with the event is growing, with many UK shoppers increasingly turned off by its promotion of excessive consumption. And small businesses have always struggled to compete with large rivals.
Big high street names like John Lewis and Next have already decided to shun the sale, but should small businesses participate in Black Friday 2021?
What is Black Friday?
Black Friday started in the US as a way to lure shoppers back after the Thanksgiving holiday and to drive up sales before Christmas.
It was imported to the UK by Amazon in 2010, though it was Walmart-owned Asda’s decision to participate in 2013 which saw it really take off.
The UK’s small businesses have always had a slightly uneasy relationship with the event, given that the biggest beneficiaries are always the biggest businesses which can afford to offer the biggest deals.
That said, many have found creative ways to entice shoppers and take advantage of the consumer frenzy.
When is Black Friday 2021?
Black Friday 2021 is on November 26, though very few retailers now restrict sales to the day itself, and some start discounting weeks before.
What is Cyber Monday?
Cyber Monday is the digital version of Black Friday, where retailers cut their online prices to drive ecommerce sales. This year, Cyber Monday will fall on November 29.
However, Cyber Monday is becoming increasingly irrelevant as most brands offer online discounts and deals online on Black Friday as well as in store.
‘Shoppers are becoming increasingly suspicious of being encouraged to impulse buy goods’
How to make the most of Black Friday 2021
The main thing you can do to succeed on Black Friday is be in the right sector. Research from Statista has shown that consumer tech, health and beauty, and fashion are the big winners when it comes to consumer spending on Black Friday.
That said, if you’re not in those sectors, there are still plenty of things you can do to maximise sales:
#1 – Get a website
If you’re not already online, what are you waiting for? A survey from Outbrain, a recommendation platform, found that 48% of consumers plan to shop exclusively online this holiday season, and just 6% exclusively in-store.
#2 – Build anticipation through social media
Broadcast your Black Friday 2021 plans to customers new and old in the run up to the event. Tell them what deals they can expect and what products will be on offer to build anticipation and excitement.
#3 – Encourage existing customers with a mailout
Make the most of the people most likely to buy from you – your existing customers – by making them aware of your Black Friday plans in an email newsletter.
#4- Be prepared
Can your website handle the traffic? Can your store handle the shoppers?
Whether you’re planning for an ecommerce or an in-store rush, make sure you’re prepared for the extra demand this places on your website or shop.
Online this means testing your website’s bandwidth to see if it has capacity for a traffic surge. It’s not uncommon for websites to crash on Black Friday, resulting in a major loss of potential revenue.
In store this could mean increasing the number of staff on shift and, in the time of Covid, making sure your shop is as safe as possible when it’s busy.
#5 – Plan your logistics
If you’re running a really small business, be prepared for the logistics of a sudden large increase in sales, especially if you’re a one-person band. Make sure you have enough stock and packaging materials to fulfil all your orders.
Consider signing up with an order fulfilment service if you think the scale of potential sales warrants it. Using order fulfilment essentially outsources the storing, packing, and shipping of your products to a third party.
Depending on the number of units you expect to sell, order fulfilment can cost as little as £10 per month.
#6 – Be true to your brand
Don’t lose sight of what makes your brand unique and what about it appeals to existing customers.
According to Outbrain, 43 per cent of UK consumers say the sustainability and eco-friendliness of a brand will be important when making a purchasing decision this holiday season, while 32 per cent favour brands that support diversity and inclusion.
The anti-Black Friday movement
The Black Friday backlash has been building for several years. Shoppers are becoming increasingly suspicious of being encouraged to impulse buy goods and much more aware of the potential environmental implications.
What’s more, the deals aren’t always the one-time offers they claim to be. Analysis by Which? last year found that just 1 per cent of goods looked at in the six months before and after the day were at their cheapest on Black Friday itself.
Regardless, for small businesses, there are a number of other potential risks posed by Black Friday. The first is that many are compelled to cut prices beyond what they can afford to match the expectations of consumers. This short-term margin hit can have long-term implications for profitability.
And with Black Friday now turning into more of a Black Month of sales, most small businesses can’t hope to maintain discounts for such long periods
There’s also the issue of your customers waiting for you to go on sale. If they know that cheaper prices are just around the corner, many consumers will delay a purchase until they can get a better deal. Do this enough and you’ll struggle to sell things at full price.
Several campaigns have sprung up in recent years to encourage people to shop local on Black Friday. Shopappy, an app which helps people discover and shop local, is doing just that.
Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government High Streets Task Force and founder of Shopappy, says that Black Friday purchases made on Amazon and other online giants are often “a black eye” to the small high street retailer and that the next four to five weeks will be make-or-break time for many smaller retailers.
Dr Mulligan says: “Black Friday is the Grinch that stole Christmas for many smaller retailers.”
Alternative Black Friday 2021 events
Many brands, big and small alike, have launched anti-Black Friday campaigns, using the day to promote more socially and environmentally conscious ways shoppers can spend their money.
As well as doing good, it’s a great way to look beyond a short-term cash grab by demonstrating your brand values to your customers.
London-based sustainable fashion brand Fanfare is a great example. Instead of Black Friday, it’s doing Green Friday, donating 10 per cent of all sales placed on the day or over the weekend to charities that help empower poverty stricken or trafficked women.
And last year, sustainable lifestyle brand Public Fibre’s Buy More Rubbish campaign literally sold rubbish – including food wrappers, plastic bottles, plastic cutlery, and straws (the ocean’s biggest polluters) – to raise money for The Ocean Cleanup, a non-profit developing technologies that rid the oceans of plastic.
Should my business participate in Black Friday 2021?
Whether you’re for or against on principle, many factors play into the decision to participate in Black Friday 2021 or not.
If you’re confident that your margins won’t be too badly affected by a day of cut prices, and you don’t think it would be at odds with your brand values, then by all means participate.
If you feel passionately that Black Friday 2021 is a wasteful consumer frenzy, use the day as an opportunity to promote a good cause.
Of course, one of the best causes you can support is encouraging consumers to spend their money at small independent businesses like yours, which employ 16.3m people and contribute £2.3tr to the economy.
Participating in the day with a few deals and offers and making some extra sales is a win for all small businesses. Money spent with you is money not spent at large multinationals.