Black Friday: Expectations & Amazon’s Pop-Up

Tonight, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Amazon UK’s latest bricks & mortar experiment – ‘The Home of Black Friday’ pop-up in Shoreditch.

This is the second year that Amazon has opened a temporary showroom in a bid to raise awareness of the 10-day discounting bonanza that is possibly now only trumped by the retailer’s very own artificially created shopping event – Prime Day in July. But I digress.

Love it or loathe it, Black Friday has become a permanent fixture on the UK shopping calendar and we have Amazon to thank for bringing it across the Atlantic back in 2010.

Three Black Friday observations for 2018:

1) More like Black November. Black Friday is getting longer: Amazon, Argos and Debenhams are just a handful of retailers running week-plus long events. Consolidating the bulk of your Christmas trade into 24 hours tests even the most advanced supply chains. Doug Gurr, MD of Amazon UK, mentioned tonight that one of the reasons Amazon has extended Black Friday in recent years is to “take out some of the pinch points”, operationally speaking. So, although spreading the event out over a couple of weeks might dilute the sense of urgency traditionally associated with Black Friday, it should ultimately result in a more streamlined experience for both retailer and consumer and, ideally, lead to lower returns rates. Previously, many shoppers who got caught up in the one-day frenzy would end up with buyer’s remorse and by the time the returned product made its way back onto the shelf (particularly for an online order) it would have to be further discounted.

2) Promotion fatigue/consumer scepticism. Consumer group Which? is warning shoppers not to get “duped by dodgy deals” since last year nearly 9 out of 10 Black Friday ‘bargains’ were cheaper at other times in the year. I’d like to think most consumers today are savvy enough to understand that Black Friday is mainly a lot of noise, with a few genuine bargains the mix. According to PWC, half of UK consumers are not interested in the event at all this year with 11% warning they would intentionally avoid shopping altogether.

3) But peer pressure… Despite the many harmful effects of Black Friday – erodes margins, pulls spending forward, dilutes trust and credibility, etc – it’s equally risky to shun it altogether. This is the only time of the year when retailers genuinely have a captive audience. There is an appetite to spend, a reason to loosen purse strings, and not many national retailers are brave enough to miss out on the potential sales. B&Q is the only genuine exception I can think of (even Next took part last year). On paper, M&S is shunning Black Friday again this year but they have been running 20% off sales for Sparks members. Limiting the deals to loyalty cardholders is a more subtle approach, but a blanket discount can be just as effective when it comes to driving footfall.

Amazon’s ‘The Home of Black Friday’ pop-up

As with most of Amazon’s bricks & mortar experiments, The Home of Black Friday pop-up has very little to do with shifting product. In fact, it would be a stretch to call this a shop (to be fair, Amazon doesn’t). It’s a showroom designed to humanize the Amazon brand, to tempt shoppers into the retailer’s very sticky ecosystem, get them engaging with the app and ultimately driving adoption of its various devices. If you’re interested in why Amazon is pushing so heavily into bricks & mortar retailing, there’s a whole chapter dedicated to exactly this in my upcoming book which launches in just six weeks!

The Home of Black Friday is located at 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6PG and will be open to the public from 22-25 November.