Black Friday bargain hunters – and Amazon shoppers – beware!

Iona Bain

Shoppers hoping to grab a bargain in this months’s Black Friday sales need to be on their mettle for distorted discounts and the growing dominance of shopping giant Amazon, now claimed to be more expensive than many independent rivals.

The industry association for web retailers, IMRG, has predicted that online sales on November 27 will hit the £1bn mark this year in a first for British retail. This represents a 32 per cent rise compared to last year and will far outstrip sales on traditional shopping dates like Boxing Day and New Years Day. The industry has also been fuelling the fire by promising days or even weeks of deals to lure in Christmas shoppers.

This week Asda said it would ignore Black Friday. Owned by US giant Walmart, it was Asda which with Amazon was responsible for bringing the phenomenon, along with Cyber Monday three days later, across the Atlantic only two years ago. But last year it was embarrassed by scenes of shoppers fighting over TVs, and now says customers “don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales.”

Retail analyst Nick Bubb has said Amazon remains fully committed to the promotion, as well as stores such as Currys and PC World, while Asda “wanted to avoid any risk of reputational damage”.

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, said he expected to see a “Black Friday period” for some retailers, but added that many deals could be tempered to prevent the sector taking a hit. “Last year, anticipation of Black Friday led to a slow start to the Christmas shopping season and panic-discounting by some, which impacted on profit margins. So the availability and rate of discounts will need to be rationalised this year for it to be sustainable.”

That has led to fears that sneaky discount tactics could be widely deployed to prevent Black Friday hurting the sector’s profitability. The Advertising Standards Authority has taken action by issuing a cautionary message about misleading promotions in the run up to this year’s event.

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