M&S, Next, and Wilko are among the leading high street brands sitting out Black Friday. The event, an import from the US, usually sees brands offer significant discounts in the week running up to the Thanksgiving holiday.
Certain brands previously shunned the event, opting for end-of-season sales instead. However, changing consumer preferences have increased the popularity of Black Friday sales events in recent years. Luxury clothing retailer Jigsaw, for example, launched its first Black Friday sale in 2018, saying that the "economic, political and retail landscapes have changed dramatically."
Indeed, historical retail data indicate massive increases in the number of customers who shop during the Black Friday event. Spending on Black Friday is expected to increase to £750 million this year, up from £718 million last year, according to research by Lloyds Bank. The same study indicates that over two-thirds of shoppers have actively delayed a planned purchase to try and find a bargain during Black Friday.
However, several leading brands have decided not to participate in the Black Friday sales, preferring to offer "good value all-year-round" instead.
Leading clothing retailer Next, for example, decided not to participate, despite having had a challenging year. Next reported their current level of in-store sales stands at around half of what they were by this time the previous year.
Marks & Spencer is another major brand that has announced its decision not to take part. A spokesperson from M&S said that the retailer had not offered any specific Black Friday deals over the past few years and that nothing would be different this year. "We focus on offering great value and deals throughout the whole festive season," M&S said.
Wilko and B&M have also chosen not to participate, preferring to offer great deals and discounts throughout the festive season instead of concentrated on one day. They added that some of the exclusive Black Friday deals are often deceptive, not representing real savings, or available in limited stocks.
Recent research by consumer group Which? supports this statement. Data revealed that close to nine out of ten products marketed with “discounts” on Black Friday are available for the same price or cheaper earlier in the year. Which? have recommended that consumers research the products they plan on buying during Black Friday, to ensure that they are getting a genuine bargain.
Though these brands' decision not to participate in Black Friday sales seems counterintuitive, given the hardships they have had to face this year, all is not as it seems. Retail expert Kate Hardcastle says that it makes sense for retailers to move away from offering excessively deep discounts.
"Black Friday creates a challenging retail calendar for a lot of shops, with many customers now expecting discounts throughout the year as a matter of course. Although some sales might be lost, brands need to remember it's not just a race to the bottom on price and use it as an opportunity to shift attention elsewhere."
Indeed, some brands have chosen a more creative approach towards Black Friday, using it as an opportunity to create awareness. Clothing brand Baukjen, for example, plans to donate any profits made during Black Friday to charity. In a similar vein, footwear firm Allbirds raised prices across all its products by £1 and will donate the proceeds to charity.