With Black Friday cancelled, what can retailers do to help save their Christmas?

Manfred Abraham - Co-Chief Executive

With the UK now enduring its second national lockdown, following months of economic uncertainty and disruption, we find ourselves on the verge of financial meltdown. There is genuine concern for the future of brick and mortar retailers, and rightly so, as the timing of the second lockdown couldn’t have been worse for these businesses.

The months up to Christmas are the most valuable period of the year for the UK’s brick and mortar retailers. The first lockdown cost non-essential shops £1.6 billion a week in lost sales and with Black Friday and Christmas approaching, this number will only increase, perhaps exponentially [1].

In 2019, Black Friday resulted in an estimated £5.6 billion worth of sales for British retailers [2], which this year, is at risk of being lost to e-tailers and businesses with a strong online presence. Online sales for retailers are up 61% this year in contrast with the same period last year [3], giving these businesses not only the immediate opportunity to have record years for sales, but also to build relationships with new customers and develop long-lasting brand loyalty, resulting hopefully (for them) in increased return sales.

It is regrettable that far too many of these businesses have been caught in the dark by a second lockdown and had not planned appropriately. Whether that’s due to a lack of communication from the government or naivety in business preparations, there is little evidence that businesses were prepared for this.

Amazon, however, that has almost no high street presence, has already launched its Black Friday seasonal sale, despite not being immediately impacted by the lockdown. Quick off the mark with its contingency plan, Amazon is set for a bumper Christmas period and with Black Friday cancelled on the high street, it’ll likely dominate Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Following Amazon’s lead, bricks and mortar stores need to instigate contingency plans quickly and effectively, helping to generate sales throughout their busiest period, despite shop stores being closed. Some advice to consider:

Stay true to culture and values

At times like these, brands are judged on their actions, not their words. It’s hugely important that businesses stay true to their values and act responsibly on behalf of its employees, customers and communities, in order to maintain positive customer relationships and brand loyalty.

Short-term support, long-term loyalty

To achieve this, brands may need to offer short-term support in return for long-term reputation and customer loyalty. Working harder to encourage people to spend money through more clearly demonstrating practical or emotional value.

Connecting online

And finally, connecting with people online is now easier than ever but brands should also be aware of the need to step away from screens and not attempt to interfere when people are disconnected. However, as restrictions are reimposed, and opportunities for face-to-face contact decline, businesses will need to balance offline and online interactions to best reach people. Getting this right will likely be paramount for the businesses seeking to replace in-store sales with online.

[1] BRC, 2020

[2] Finder, 2020

[3] The Guardian, 2020

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