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Expert blog: Black Friday has hidden risks for shoppers and businesses – support local instead

Professor Lynn Oxborrow, Nottingham Business School, suggests that consumers go green for Black Friday

Neon Black Friday sign on a wall
Black Friday online sales figures are set to fall this year

It’s here again! Black Friday… we can all find bargains, let’s get online fast.

Black Friday was popularised in the UK in 2013 when ASDA adopted the US custom of its parent, Walmart. Created as a marketing tool to help US retailers get back into the black, Black Friday was a time for clearing surplus stock over the Thanksgiving weekend while customers had holiday time on their hands to shop. It is the equivalent of our ‘Boxing Day sales’.

Over the last few years Black Friday has moved largely online where we can be bombarded with direct sales messages. In 2022, UK sales on Black Friday are predicted to be as high as £8.7 billion, slightly down on last year when the UK was emerging from Lockdown and customers had spare cash for leisure and shopping. Predictions this year are that high street sales will grow, while online sales will fall slightly compared to last year.

Less obvious is the growing awareness that Black Friday bargains are not as good as they might appear. Which? consumer research has just revealed that only around 2% of last year’s Black Friday offers were genuinely cheaper than the same product or service at other times of the year. Nevertheless, in 2022, 45 million consumers are predicted to flock to high streets to grab bargains that help beat the cost-of-living crisis. This could well be false economy.

Professor Lynn Oxborrow
Professor Lynn Oxborrow

Oddly, Black Friday can be a false economy for businesses too, as the huge spike in sales places a burden on businesses to build up stock, handle orders, and distribution, which ironically adds costs that could put consumer prices up for the rest of the year. To spread the load, (or due to the World Cup) the busiest day for sales could be Cyber Monday, not Black Friday at all. There’s a growing tendency for Black Friday to turn into Black Week!

Meanwhile, the growth of online sales is making Black Friday a target for cybercrime. Kaspersky predict a big growth in banking fraud as cybercriminals develop ever more creative phishing tools to catch deal-hungry customers off-guard, most recently those using buy-now pay-later deals.

Topping sales in the 2022 Black Friday shopping basket is clothing and footwear, followed by electricals (top last year) and toys. Considering that most of us over-consume clothing to the extent that an estimated £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year most of us really don’t need to buy more, so Friday is not only black, but also not very green.

The popularity of Black Friday is not spread evenly across the UK. In fact, the East Midlands had the second lowest 2021 sales of all English regions, with only Wales, Northern Ireland and the North-East lower. Across the East Midlands, 2022 sales are predicted to drop by nearly 11% against last year.

So all-in-all, Black Friday starts to look somewhat less attractive – especially in the East Midlands. If your Black Friday deals are not real bargains, you could face Cybercrime, or miss the World Cup, why not have a rethink?  Avoid buying what you don’t need and over-consuming! Support your local high street, grab a bargain at a charity outlet, reflect on what you saved in a local café, do something for your local community and feel good.

Let’s turn Black Friday Green!

Professor Lynn Oxborrow, Principal Lecturer in Small Business and Supply Chain Management, Nottingham Business School

Published on 24 November 2022
  • Category: Press office; Research; Nottingham Business School