The tradition founded by our Transatlantic cousins of 'shop 'till you drop' on the weekend following Thanksgiving is becoming more popular in the UK but is your retail business ready?
To sale or not to sale?
Retailers do not need to partake in the Black Friday weekend sales at all. This year we have already seen one big retailer announce that it will not be putting on a Black Friday sale despite getting involved in the last few years.
Although discounting products on Black Friday weekend leads to an increase in sales over that period, often sales in the following weeks aren't as good. As a result, the Black Friday figures are often distorted as its effect is to bring sales forward rather than generating extra revenue. Retailers need to consider whether focusing sales on Black Friday is worth the negative impact on sales figures in December (which could also affect their reputation).
Although more and more retailers are choosing not to follow the crowd; they don't miss out completely.
The excitement created by Black Friday means that most retailers see a boost in sales simply because of the sheer number of customers (whether through their shop doors or visits to their website) who are out hunting for a deal.
Make a positive impact
Shoppers expect value, efficiency and a fantastic experience at all times when they buy from retailers. In an age where customer complaints have the potential to spread instantly and widely on social media, sale periods must be handled carefully.
Wise retailers will make use of Black Friday sales if it is good for business but measures must be taken to ensure they have a positive effect. Extending cut-price deals across a longer period would help to avoid a huge rush of customers in a small window of time making the situation easier to manage and promises of delivery achievable.
With the potential for online traffic to explode in such a short period of time, retailers need to ensure that their websites can cope with demand. Precautionary measures should be taken to ensure that there is sufficient IT staffing over the Black Friday weekend to avoid any technical issues which will result in missed sales and disgruntled customers.
Can you deliver?
The Consumer Contract Regulations 2013 require that online customers receive their purchased goods by the agreed delivery time, and otherwise within 30 calendar days. If they do not, they are entitled to a full refund (for the costs of the goods as well as any delivery costs) within 14 calendar days.
It is essential that retailers assess their capacity to deliver. Such an assessment must also extend to the suppliers and delivery agents of the retailers, as, ultimately, a consumer has a contract with the retailer and it is the retailer which will be liable for any late or non-delivery of goods.
An honest self-assessment conducted by retailers will avoid letting customers down. Further, clear communication of the online offers being made and the dates customers can expect to receive their goods is far more likely to encourage repeat business than delivering late.
It is also worthwhile promoting alternative delivery methods such as 'click and collect'. Not only will this encourage customers to shop online rather than creating queues to get in store but it will also alleviate the strain on delivery companies.
Be cautious in store
Shop owners have a duty of care towards those who enter their premises at all times. A lack of staffing and security can lead to scuffles and arguments between customers promoting bad publicity for a retailer.
Staff rotas should be carefully planned and measures put in place to ensure that customers experience fairness in the availability of offers open to them. It is also important to ensure staff are adequately trained and briefed on how to deal with extremely busy periods such as this.
Allowing entry to limited numbers of customers at any one time, providing extra security staff around the shop floor and implementing effective queuing systems for tills and entry to the shop will all reduce the risk of reputational backlash.
Promotion and discounts
Timely sales are important for any retailer, but it is important that any decision to hold a sale (whether on Black Friday weekend or otherwise) should take the happiness of existing customers into account. If a flash sale is introducing a high number of new customers, one eye also needs to be kept on whether such a flash sale is also putting off existing customers.
To achieve a balance, many retailers are now using Black Friday to offer loyalty-based discounts to existing customers as an alternative.
Before deciding whether or not to participate in Black Friday it is worthwhile reflecting on the effect it had on sales over the same period last year.
If you do take part, consider the level and length of involvement. If it did not have as big an impact as hoped then perhaps it is worth scaling back the promotional frenzy this year, or offering promotions online only to avoid the disruptive effect it can have in stores.
Whether or not you decide to get involved with Black Friday remember that you are likely to experience a boost in sales because of the increased footfall and internet traffic over the weekend so be prepared for it; ensure delivery times are manageable, staffing levels are adequate and offers are clear.
This document is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.