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4 min read

Is Black Friday Dead?

This article was updated on: 07.02.2022

It’s a question that’s no doubt being asked a lot as we approach the retail holiday. But is Black Friday dead, dying, evolving or staying just the same?

We’ll know in a couple of days time, but in the meantime, I’ve been sharing my thoughts with retail blog Traidcraft as part of their podcast. Have a listen here:

The history of Black Friday in the UK

Black Friday is traditionally an American holiday. It falls the day after Thanksgiving, and is similar in idea to Boxing Day in the UK.

It first made its way over the pond in 2014 as retailers spotted the opportunity to make more sales by discounting their products for one day only (or for the whole weekend, to include Cyber Monday too).

In its first year, Black Friday in the UK was hit by stories of ‘mini riots’ and shoppers fighting for the best deals. In 2015, things calmed down somewhat, with stories focusing more on the increase in spending generated by the event.

The economic value of Black Friday

There have been concerns raised more recently about the impact of Black Friday on retail footfall – the number of people physically visiting shops and making purchases in person. This applied particularly to certain industries in 2015, but not to all, as shown by this infographic from Ipsos:

UK Retail Footfall on Black Friday 2015


In this way, Black Friday has been suggested to be damaging the retail industry, leading to the suggestion that Black Friday is ‘dead’.

But, as is the case in today’s omni-channel world, we need to look at the whole picture. Whilst retail footfall may have decreased compared to the first Black Friday event (and let’s not forget, we’ve only had two), overall spending has increased each year – and looks set to do so again in 2016 (albeit amidst fears of an adverse knock on to future months’ sales).

Black Friday for brands

As a digital marketing agency, we look out for any opportunities to help our clients to raise awareness of their brands, to expand their audiences and to make more sales.

For us, the past two Black Fridays have certainly paid off for our clients in terms of achieving those goals. We’re supporting more of our clients in their Black Friday campaigns this year, too.

What we should bear in mind is that any retail event or holiday, be it Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or anything else, needs to be handled in the way that best suits the brand itself.

Consider your own business. If you’ve invested in growing a high quality brand that doesn’t sell based on price, like my client Bare Necessities, discounting those products simply doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t tell the right story for the brand.

But conversely, a business which does aim to make price one of its selling points can find a great deal of benefit in giving customers a discount – so long as that discount is profitable for the business, as my colleague Chloe describes in her white paper about how to create a Black Friday deal (well worth a read!).

It doesn’t even need to be an exercise in making sales. Outdoor brand REI is using Black Friday as an opportunity to tell its own audience not to bother shopping online all day, but to head outdoors instead in their #OptOutside campaign. This perfectly suits their brand and they’ve used the event to communicate a key brand value in a new and engaging way.

Fat Face is another brand using Black Friday without discounting. Their ‘Thanks For Giving‘ campaign centres around them giving their profits to charity, rather than passing those discounts on to consumers. Again, the brand is using the event as a platform to communicate a core brand value, and is doing so in an engaging, press-worthy way.

One of the things I said in the podcast is that “at the end of the day, Black Friday is another marketing opportunity”. If you listen to the commentary after my interview, Jon suggests this to be a controversial position, but for me, it’s a very practical consideration for businesses today. Yes, we should all be focusing on doing good in the world, of course, but at the same time, if an opportunity is available to help you grow your brand in an ethical way, you should be able to take it. No one would argue with the REI or Fat Face campaigns, because they do good, but equally, there’s no shame in providing a discounted product if it’s right for your brand and for your audience.

Black Friday tips and resources

Are you wondering how you can make the most of Black Friday in your business?

It’s not too late!

We’ve put together a range of white papers designed to help you get the most out of this Friday’s event and how to measure the outcomes thereafter.

Black Friday tips and resources, free to download

If you’d to speak to me or a member of the team about Black Friday or anything to do with your digital marketing, get in touch! Or leave a comment below; I’d love to hear your thoughts on how Black Friday is going to go in the UK this year and how you see its future.