To those people out of the loop I’m sure Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday sounds like a trilogy of films with no apparent connection however for those of us with an eye for a bargain it represents a very important time of year when you can make a significant saving against your Christmas shopping bill. Black Friday is a US custom that has taken off in the UK and represents huge instore and online sales (akin to Boxing Day) on the Friday after Thanksgiving and so named (or one explanation anyway) as it represents the day when many companies start to operate in profit for the year so their P&L going in to the black. Sofa Sunday follows Black Friday and represents the day when most people sit at home and go through their Christmas lists and do a bit of research and start ordering online and finally Cyber Monday when further discounts and sales can be found but online only this time.
You look at these 3 days and it really must be some people’s idea of shopping hell but spare a thought for the Retailers who must have significant logistical, management and risk challenges to make sure these events go without a hitch and that they take every opportunity to maximise business. Already today Retailers are reporting increased business e.g. John Lewis said that between midnight and 6am, traffic to johnlewis.com was up 307% compared with Black Friday last year and Currys PC World saying it had seen its “biggest ever start” to Black Friday, with web traffic increasing fivefold from last year (source: BBC News). One can only imagine the logistical risks to get all the stock in place, the coordination between retail and online not to mention the knock on impacts to the various courier companies and what about the traffic and parking in town centres to cope with the demands of the day. When you see the amount of stakeholders involved and impacted in such events you sometimes wonder how it all comes together without a shared plan and approach. So with such significant levels of business how effective has the planning to manage the significant risk been??
It really is difficult to say at this stage but reports (source: BBC News) of: the Police being called to a number of disturbances in London and Manchester supermarkets as shoppers fought over goods and at midday, the queue to access Currys’ website was over half an hour long at midday and Tesco Direct also experienced temporary outages suggest things could perhaps be managed more effectively.
Also one has to ask how are the successes of such events measured, is it sales in one day or sales over a specific week? What about customer feedback and customer retention are they seen as measures of success because how many people get fed up waiting in a queue only to give up or how many decide not to buy an item full price post Black Friday out of principle that it was so much cheaper the previous week? How many people had to work on Friday and missed out anyway so made them more negative towards a retailer? How much additional strain did this put on the support services? How much stress did the whole shopping experience put on the consumer especially those stuck in endless queues who didn’t manage to snap up that bargain they had their eye on?
With so many unanswered questions you have to ask are these events worth it for all the effort involved and do the end benefits justify them? However would this be a different answer if they were run like a giant project with close management of plans, impacts, risk and most of all benefits. Would this more planned approach help make such events be a more pleasurable experience for all involved or perhaps even with the best laid plans, who can account for behaviour of the British public when a bargain is at stake?……..right I’m off to get my 2 for 1 pizza!!!