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Shropshire Star comment: A dim view on Black Friday

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

The doors are flung open and the eager crowds pour in, keen to grab a Black Friday bargain.

We shall have to wait to see if that is the reality for the hard-pressed retailers on the High Street or whether all those customers are phantoms who are inhabiting cyberspace rather than making their way to our shopping centres.

Our shops could do with the boost which comes from actual people giving their custom, and so could our traditional town centres which are looking to retain their vitality in the face of competition, both from the online offering and the out-of-town retail parks with their big stores and relatively easy parking.

Black Friday, and the artificial spending spree it provokes, will not address the underlying problems even if this year is a bumper success. If customers hold off purchases in the weeks beforehand, depressing the market, and then have a splurge on the day – or during the week, as Black Friday seems to have grown to Black Week – then what has been achieved is a crazy blip in the graph of retail spending.

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And yet retailers do not have much choice but to join the madness. If they do not offer attractive deals, they will miss out from the benefits of this consumer feeding frenzy. But throwing their hats in the ring may not bring the sales they were looking for, because Black Friday is a phenomenon which is played out in large part on the internet.

While there are bargains to be had, buyers need to do their research to understand just how much of a bargain they are, or are not, getting.

An astonishing study by Which? into last year’s Black Friday sales found that 95 per cent of the products it tracked were either cheaper, or the same price, from the same retailer at least once in the six months following the event. And well over half were cheaper or the same price before Black Friday.

It’s tempting to say that the lesson of that is that if you want a bargain, give Black Friday a miss. But in the frenzied atmosphere it generates, who will listen to that?

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