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The ‘Black Friday’ sales phenomenon will take place this Friday, 26th November. Whilst it appears to be a great bargain shopping experience the merits of Black Friday are being called into question by Irish and British retailers.

But before that, let’s take a step back and see where the idea of Black Friday came from and why it now is one of the most anticipated shopping days in the calendar.

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is an American originated concept and can trace it’s origins way back to 1869 when two financiers tried to corner the gold market. The US government stepped in as the financiers’ move was causing total panic and distress. It happened on a Friday and hence the birth of Black Friday. The key here being that the two financiers saw the opportunity to corner the gold market as a good deal.

In modern day America the Friday after Thanksgiving is usually a manic shopping experience as millions of Americans start their Christmas shopping. It wasn’t long before retailers began to use this day as an opportunity to promote their own stores by way of organising parades. Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is the most famous and has been running in New York City since 1924.

From a retailers perspective Black Friday is just one of a number of busy shopping days in their calendar and didn’t attract so much attention until 2003 when, for the first time ever, it was recognised as the busiest shopping day in terms of sales revenues.

All it takes is one retailer to break from the norm and in no time at all, the rest will have to follow. This is exactly what happened in 2012 as retailers started to compete with each other to see who opens earlier. This has led to Thanksgiving no longer being recognised as a day off for retail workers as the bigger retailers are now opening for the black Friday sale on Thursday evening, some at 5pm.

Here’s the interesting point: many shoppers are choosing to stay at home and do their Black Friday shopping form the comfort of their couch, iPad at the ready to snap up, oftentimes, even better bargains than are available in-store.

History lesson over, what does this mean for shoppers on this side of the Atlantic. Thanksgiving is not a big occasion here so we are not primed for a Black Friday event as much as our American counterparts. Also, it’s a regular Friday here so the vast majority of us will be at work. That said, Black Friday is here but retailers have adopted a much cooler response with a well founded argument that such a splurge of discounted shopping hurts retail sales before and after the event.

Interestingly, one large retailer in the UK has puled all Black Friday sales from its stores. This a brave move by ASDA and only time will tell if they have adopted the right strategy.

Data from the US shows that shoppers aren’t drawn to small businesses on Black Friday as they are instead drawn by the promise of bigger deals at the larger stores. So, many smaller retailers are electing to remain closed on Black Friday as it’s not a realistic option to open. They can’t compete or operate in a market where people are encouraged to buy products in bulk at deep discounts.

Marc O'Dwyer

After completing a Graduate program in Marketing, Marc’s impressive sales career began at Allied Irish Banks, Pitney Bowes and Panasonic where he received numerous Irish and European sales performance awards and consistently exceeded targets and expectations. In 1992, Marc’s entrepreneurial spirit led him to set up his own business, Irish International Sales (IIS). Initially, this company was a reseller for Take 5 Accounts and Payroll software. Within four years, IIS became the largest reseller of Take 5 in Ireland, acquiring four other Take 5 resellers. He also found time to set up two mobile phone shops under the Cellular World brand and a web design company offering website design services for small businesses. In 2001, he bought the majority share in a small Irish software business, Big Red Book. At that time, the company was losing money. The company became profitable within two months, and Marc then acquired a payroll company to compliment Big Red Books Accounting products. In 2003, IIS were appointed as Channel Partners with SAP for their new SME product, SAP Business One. Marc sold his Take 5 business and concentrated on developing this new market for SAP As a result, by 2007, IIS was recognised as the largest Channel Partner for SAP in EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa). In 2008, the IIS Sales Manager bought the Company from Marc in an MBO. He launched Big red cloud in June 2012, the online version of big red book, to date the company successfully converts 59% of trials into sales and the number of customers is growing rapidly. Marc continues to run both Big Red Book and Big Red Cloud which now support 75,000 businesses. He is a very keen sportsman, having played rugby for 20 years, represented Leinster at under 16 and under 20 levels, and league squash with Fitzwilliam Lawn Tennis Club for 10 years. Marc has competed in 11 Marathons, including the London and Boston Marathons, and has completed several Triathlons and Half Ironman races. He has also completed six Ironman Races in Austria(x2), Frankfurt (Germany), Nice (France) , Mallorca (Spain) and Copenhagen (Denmark)

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