by Chris Edger, retail expert and Professor of Multi-Unit Leadership at Birmingham City University’s Business School

Black Friday is nearly upon us.  So called because the Friday after the American Thanksgiving is estimated to be when – due to a huge promotional sales surge – retailers move ‘into the black’ after a year of being ‘in the red’.

But the question is this. Does Black Friday really mean that UK retailers move into the ‘profit zone’? Given the anaemic performance of the high street this year, there are some retailers that won’t. Why?  A profound change has occurred in the way that people shop; particularly Millennials.

Millennials are savvy ‘screen shoppers’ and they have sussed out that Black Friday is – largely – a fabricated entity. They fish for deals the whole year around, not just on key seasonal events. They aren’t part of the ‘New Year sales’ generation.  The brands they shop for aren’t necessarily related to what the high street offers.

Have you heard of Supreme, the generation X super-brand promoted by YouTubers? They’re an example of an intelligent start-up clothing brand, accessing consumers through more sophisticated channels than the high street.

Then there is the fact that the high street is suffering from a form of ‘ambivalent consumption’ from its core consumer franchise. How much more ‘kit’ do consumers need?  What consumers really crave is experiences. Festivals and events that provide memories. Discretionary spend that would have been traditionally splurged on more stuff is now being diverted to ‘memorable occasions’.

No doubt the news media will record a shopping frenzy this Friday.  But the reality is this, for many retailers it will be a Red rather than Black Friday.  Expect further retail closures and bankruptcies on the high street in the New Year!

Chris Edger is a retail expert and Professor of Multi-Unit Leadership at Birmingham City University’s Business School. View our Business courses.

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