Credit Vanessa Fortnam 

In an effort to find out if the US phenomenon of Black Friday is filtering through to the UK stationery industry, we conducted an informal poll last week amongst our Twitter followers on @StationeryBytes to see if they were planning promotions and offers especially for Black Friday.

The response was varied.  Certainly many stationery and card retailers and suppliers included Black Friday in their promotional plans and ran specific online promotions on the day.  I saw or know of promotions from Nuco International, Smythson, Quill London, Cross Pens, Hobbycraft, WHSmith, The Pen Shop, B&M, Scribbler, Niche Pens, Danilo, Five Dollar Shake and Bureau Direct on Friday – but did notice that the majority of them seemed to extend over ‘Black Friday Weekend’, or be part of a bigger ‘festive season’ campaign, rather than just be in place for one day.

Nuco International Black Friday promotion

However, in general the key questions for retailers are more to do with how people shopped, ie online, in store, or click and collect, what they bought (Christmas gifts and/or big ticket items for themselves) and whether it will affect Christmas and January sales.

According to the responses we received, smaller independent retailers feel that chasing low margin sales during their peak trading season does not make good commercial sense.  The larger retailers of course, can afford to promote loss leaders in order to gain new customer interest, and in most cases it is likely to be the supplier bearing the brunt of the cost of doing so.  If they are then able to sustain interest from these new customers, then Black Friday has certainly worked for them.

It was also interesting to read about ‘Civilised Saturday’, an initiative by booksellers across the country as the ‘antithesis’ to Black Friday.  The Booksellers Association encouraged bookshops who couldn’t afford to compete with the heavy discounting of retailers taking part in Black Friday to capitalise on a busy weekend by enticing customers into their shops with an alternative offer – a more ‘civilised’ experience.  Examples of their activity included serving winter Pimms and mince pies, having Santa Claus in store ready to receive children’s Christmas wish lists, and playing calming music as well as offering Christmas gift promotions!  This initiative seems have gone down well across the board with booksellers which also ran special Black Friday promotions as well.

So it seems that Black Friday, Civilised Saturday, and close cousin Cyber Monday,  will continue to be major sales days for some retailers, but many stores will simply use them to mark the start of their annual promotional campaigns in the run up to Christmas and on into the January sales.

Does this add up to a repackaging of existing annual promotions and a redistribution of expenditure or something new?  We’ll only know once retailers are in a position to review their sales early next year…  we’d be interested to hear from suppliers and retailers alike in the stationery industry on how it worked for them!

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