Asda has become the first British retailer to ditch Black Friday promotions after saying it will spread its £26m of offers throughout the festive period but has been warned it is putting its already fragile customer loyalty at risk as consumers flock to rivals to hunt down bargains.
The supermarket maintains that, after two successful years, “shopper fatigue” has set in “around flash sales on big-ticket, non-essential items at Christmas”.
Last year, the Black Friday phenomenon, which has spread from the US, saw police called in to a number of supermarkets as fights broke out between customers grappling to grab the best deals. Meanwhile online stores of Tesco, Argos, Boots and Currys all experienced massive delays.
Asda chief executive Andy Clarke said: “The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event itself. Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales.”
But Experian Marketing Services senior retail consultant James Miller reckons the move could backfire – this year, at least. He said: “In a sense, the horse has already bolted now – consumers are anticipating Black Friday discounts and I think we can still expect it to be very busy indeed. Still pushing that £1bn mark.
“We may see other retailers follow Asda’s lead and look to regain control of the Christmas season. There is a chance that the Black Friday phenomenon will fizzle out in the UK, over time. However, we can’t forget it is also a major online sales day. I can’t see Amazon giving up on it, so maybe we’ll see it become more about online sales than offline in the future. I suspect most people would prefer to buy online rather than have a fight in a supermarket!
“Retailers need to plan for this online sales season carefully so as not to destroy margin. I think we’ll see offline sales may be constrained to a tighter range of bargains, while online only retailers like Amazon will continue to really push the day itself.”
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