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How "Black Friday" became "Blackvember"

Tom Bottomley
01 November 2018

"Black Friday", the American born shopping promotion event that finally found its way over the pond some five years ago, has now become a month of discounting and deals better termed "Blackvember", according to a report from Interactive Media in Retail Group (IMRG), the voice of e-retail in the UK for over 20 years.

The heavy discounts may not have started just yet, but customers will start to get bombarded with emails and messages on social media promising imminent amazing deals from this week onwards, supposedly to whip people in to a buying frenzy when the discounting actually comes.

The report says that over the past two years it has also became common for retailers to "soft-launch". This involves either promoting deals that reference the main event, but do not form part of an official campaign. For example, "the Black Friday build up" or, more subtly, changing elements on retail site pages to become black, such as the background or buy button, to instil the idea psychologically in shoppers’ minds that the deals available are of Black Friday quality.

This is why IMRG believes "Black Friday" has now become "Blackvember". Even though, in many cases, official campaigns might only run for a relatively short duration, in reality the design of sites and marketing messages reference the event strongly throughout the whole month.

"IMRG’s forecast for online retail sales during the eight-day period between Monday 19 – Monday 26 November is £8.1bn up 12.5% up on last year"

Officially falling on Friday 23 November, IMRG’s forecast for online retail sales during the eight-day period between Monday 19 – Monday 26 November (now known as "Cyber Monday") is £8.1bn up 12.5% up on last year, with £1.54bn to be spent online during Black Friday itself, up 13.2% up on last year.

As reported in The Telegraph back in 2016, Black Friday actually came about in the US in the 1940s, when Americans flooded the shops the day after Thanksgiving, lured by the promise of post-turkey discounts.

It was when online shopping began to gain momentum that Amazon also began offering British consumers Black Friday discounts back in in 2010, but not many people took notice of it back then. The only thing that came close to Black Friday in Britain was the traditional Boxing Day sales. A discount day before Christmas was unheard of.

Then in 2013 Asda, owned by American retail giant Walmart, had a Black Friday Sale and offered huge discounts on a range of goods, including TVs and laptops. The promise of "earth-shattering deals" sparked mayhem as customers wrestled their way to the front of the checkout and scuffles over cut-price goods made national headlines.

The following year other big retailers were keen for a slice of the super Sale action and promptly jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon, high street fashion retailers sitting on too much autumn/winter stock very much included. The result caused pandemonium in some towns and cities, with customers eager to get the best deals, and in some cases actually fighting over goods in stores.

Now it seems the "wow factor" has already dimmed and the bigger retailers, who had a taste of something really good in a very short space of time, have become like an addict forever chasing that first high, with a hugely extended discounting period seen as the only alternative to get to that same level.

As the ghosts of Halloween, another American import, fade, and the Christmas trading period not quite as fruitful for retailers as it once was, Blackvember has become the time to spend, spend, spend.

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