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Online retailers ready to cash in as Black Friday becomes the ‘sales season’

In a dark year for retailers, the picture is about to get a lot more black.

The recent tradition of Black Friday sparking a late November surge in sales that carries all the way up to Christmas will look a little different this year according to The Daily Telegraph, as the ‘sale’ signs look set to be up for most of the rest of the year, both on the high street and in online stores.

Already, Boots, Amazon, Currys PC World, The Entertainer, The Works and Superdrug are among the retailers who have indicated their Black Friday sales are starting long before the actual day after US Thanksgiving, which falls this year on Friday November 27.

In the topsy-turvy landscape of 2020, Black Friday extending for most of November makes sense for two reasons.

First, a single day or even a single week of discounts will encourage crowds into stores – crowds that cannot be controlled by retailers nor be expected to socially distance while they scrap for the bargains on shelf.

Second, in a year punctuated by lockdowns and restrictions, retailers need to hear the tills ringing again and an extended sale is a surefire way to spark demand from the public.

All of this plays out against a backdrop of local tiered restrictions, circuit breakers, fire breakers, company closures, mass redundancies and ongoing uncertainty for 2021 that have plunged consumer confidence to the floor.

All these restrictions on what we knew as normal life have driven even more of us online to do our shopping. It’s been the single biggest consumer trend to emerge from the pandemic period.

“Black Friday has definitely transitioned more into a digital affair in the past five years,” said Neil Saunders, retail analyst and managing director at GlobalData Retail. “The focal point is not that single day anymore. It’s an event spread out over several days.”

In the home of Black Friday (so called because after a day – Thanksgiving – when retailers would be in the red due to everyone spending time at home, the following day was when they returned to being in the black) many big stores have already announced they are not opening on Thanksgiving evening, including Macy’s, Walmart and Target.

The shift away from a single day or days and towards a longer period of offers has seen the remainder of 2020 dubbed the ‘sales season’ or ‘season of savings’

As we have seen over the past months of the pandemic, the shift is to online as the safest and most convenient way of shopping. It will also be where the most eye-catching offers are housed.

Retailers who traditionally would have gone for a ‘big bang’ of offers on one day or even one week should instead consider spreading these out over a few weeks of November and into December in order to encourage people to keep coming back to see what’s new and what’s discounted.

In the UK as well as the US, retailers’ first priority is to ensure their ecommerce shop window is fully operational and ready to welcome the hordes who would usually flock to high street and retail park stores.

New research from analytics company Contentsquare revealed that 91 per cent of shoppers in the UK will avoid stores this Black Friday. The research surveyed more than 1,000 shoppers and found that more than one in three (35%) will still hunt for deals, but they’ll do it online. In Germany, 69 per cent of shoppers say they will only shop for Black Friday deals online.

It is certain to be a very different Black Friday, don’t expect to see images of people jostling for that last flat screen TV off the shelf this time around.

However, the day isn’t dead and public demand for deals and bargains has rarely been higher. So retailers who are in tune with this and spread their offers out across the coming weeks will be the ones who are rewarded with more online shoppers and online sales.

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