“A trashy American import that should be binned” – Black Friday is bad for business, say indie retailers

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Three quarters of independent retailers (73 per cent) say Black Friday is bad for business, reveals a poll by shop local platform Shopappy, and free SME publicity service Newspage. The majority of indies warn they lose sales as it entices shoppers away from their local shops to spend their cash with global or retail giants.

The survey, which polled 1,000 small retailers based around the UK, also revealed that Black Friday is putting pressure on eight in 10 (81 per cent) indies to lower their prices to remain competitive. This is at a time when margins and profits are already down due to the cost of living crisis, soaring inflation and energy bills.

Nine in 10 (89 per cent) of the retailers surveyed said they’d like to see the annual shopping event removed from the UK calendar altogether, with one describing it as an “annual kick in the teeth for small independent retail businesses.” However, some retailers see Black Friday as a “necessary evil” and something they begrudgingly embrace in an effort to drive some quick sales.

Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force and founder of local shopping platform ShopLocalOnline.org and Shopappy, comments: “Having weathered the pandemic and now facing an unprecedented economic and cost of living crisis, the small independent shops that line our high streets need our support more than ever. Many are saying this Christmas could be their last if sales aren’t strong and Black Friday could be the final nail in the coffin as it bedazzles consumers and encourages them to spend with big business.

“This year, like last, we’re encouraging people to spend what money they do have with the businesses in their local communities rather than line the pockets of billionaires. To this end, we’re giving all our staff the afternoon off on Black Friday to go into their town centres and support small local shops, and we encourage other businesses to do the same, even just for an extra hour. It’s a good way to boost staff wellbeing, local communities and help the planet, and takes people away from the fakery and nonsense of Black Friday.”

Jukka Väänänen, CEO, Newspage, adds: “Black Friday, in the eyes of the vast majority of small retailers, is a trashy American import that should be binned once and for all. In the current economic climate, independent retailers are already under the cosh and then along comes an event that costs them sales and puts pressure on them to cut their prices. While the vast majority of survey respondents were against Black Friday, some were ambivalent and feel they have no choice but to roll with it. They see it as ‘a necessary evil’ and one that it would be unwise, commercially, to ignore.”

Natalie Ormond, founder of Leeds-based sustainable lifestyle store Smallkind, says: “As a business and a consumer I don’t do Black Friday. It goes against all my values. Money is tight for all of us this year. We really need a good Christmas season sales-wise but I still won’t get involved in Black Friday. Price slashing and over-consumption are my main issues with Black Friday. Both promote over-buying and are detrimental to small brands. By joining in we’d just be part of the problem. However, I do understand why lots of small businesses feel they need to drop prices, especially this year when many people are struggling to stay afloat. Many Black Friday ‘bargains’ are cheaply and unethically made and are bought on impulse only to end up in landfill when they fall apart. It’s so easy to overspend on a ‘haul’ of cheap products that you don’t need. This kind of consumerism is not good for the planet or our pockets but even the most conscious shopper can get swept away by it.”