Black Friday, bah humbug!


Today there were 23.

Yesterday the total was 36

Emails, that is. All of them advertising ‘bargains’ to be had on Black Friday. So far this week this ridiculous rubbish is well into three figures and that is without counting anything that has, mercifully, been diverted into my spam folder. As for TV ads, I can’t take any more and have vowed not to watch a single minute of any commercial channel until well into next week when, hopefully, the whole ghastly business – including ‘Cyber Monday’ – will be over.

Why ‘black’, and why Friday, in fact why this Friday?

It is, of course, and as we all know, an American idea thought up by some marketing genius (who has now doubtless swapped the dubious pleasures of Madison Avenue for a multi-million dollar spread with pool complex in Florida), and the whole awful farrago designed, one must assume, to boost trade during a flat period of the year just before the Christmas spending spree gets well under way, has winged its way, faster than the jet stream, across the Atlantic.

OK, so the Americans love this sort of thing. But why, oh why do we have to slavishly follow everything they do? And are the┬áspecial Black Friday ‘bargains’ really such bargains? I must make clear that I have not conducted any sort of survey on this, but, frankly I doubt it. The whole idea is to boost sales, and therefore profits, in the run-up to the usual pre-Christmas mayhem. That being the case there is going to be precious little room for any genuine bargain.

And if you should be fortunate enough to wander into a large store where an item actually is priced at a lower figure than the week before, it almost certainly won’t be the store that is taking the hit – they will have ‘negotiated’ with their suppliers in advance for a special price that will enable the store to maintain the same percentage markup that they would have achieved had the product been selling at its full price.

So it is the suppliers and manufacturers who bear the brunt (trust me, I know. For many years I was a manufacturer selling into some of this country’s top department stores). Often these are small companies who can ill-afford this and for whom the reduction in the cash return on each item sold can make a big difference to the firm’s financial viability. Remember, too, the small retailers who feel bound to join in but who don’t have the same bargaining power as their large competitors. All discounts come straight out of the shop’s profits and this in turn could well help to determine the wages they can afford to pay their staff, and indeed how many staff they are able to employ.

Also in my inbox today was an emailed press-release. Nothing unusual in that – I get dozens and most, being of no interest, get binned. This one however, caught my attention. It was sent out by a company called Traidcraft who specialise in Fairtrade merchandise, but the bit that interested me was their ‘Just Friday’ initiative, calling on shoppers “to stop, breathe, and buy their gifts mindfully and ethically. By buying from ethical organisations, consumers shopping on Black Friday can use their spending power to help people in developing countries.”

This strikes me as even more brilliant than Black Friday. Not only will you will probably get what you actually want, rather than something else because you’re told its a bargain (and we’ve all fallen for that at some time in our lives), but you are keeping alive the small shops and their suppliers both here and overseas.

So as we approach the season of Good Will to all, think of the small tradesmen, their families and employees as well as their suppliers (wherever in the World they may be), let us think about what we are buying and not fall for the marketing spin of a clever ad man.

The United States is in so many ways a great and wonderful country with many lovely people, but not all their ideas are necessarily brilliant – one only has to look at the recent election result. But of course they don’t have the monopoly of daft election results, just look what happened here in June. But, please, don’t get me on to Brexit……..just don’t.


Photo: library image

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  1. Agreed. I’ve been invited today to buy, amongst others, kitchen taps and damp proofing liquid in the name of Black Friday, an alien day associated with American Thanksgiving and the desire to get people to increase their credit card debt.
    My pathetic response is to Tweet #boycottblackfriday each time I get an email.


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