‘Tis the Season to Go Shopping

Posted by Kelvyn Gardner on November 23, 2015

Over the last ten years subsequent surveys by a variety of researchers have clearly identified the favourite ‘out of home’ activity among Brits: shopping. Yes, forget the great god of association football, or walking the dog, or gardening, or the myriad other traditional things to do outside – even going to the pub is surpassed. Shopping rules.

As we are now reaching the ‘festive’ season, as it’s called here, shopping Rules with a capital ‘R’. Even the most reluctant of shoppers will be tempted out. The opening shot of this big-game season is fired by the likes of the marketing departments of John Lewis and Marks & Spencer. They provide the British public with the annual phenomenon of the ‘Christmas Advert’ popularity poll.  The big supermarkets and the big department store brands unleash their big-budget thirty second spots into the PR arena, and, seemingly even before they have been aired on primetime TV, twenty million people have viewed them on YouTube, following a link from the Daily Mail (it’s usually the Daily Mail).

Back in the day when Woolworths (remember them?)  would assault prime-time TV with a spot that essentially catalogued a list of items available in the Christmas range, one thing you could be certain of. All this tempting merchandise, including the licensed stuff, would be sold at full price right until final ‘seasonal’ closing time at the appropriately civilised hour of 5.30pm on Christmas Eve.

This rigid adherence to maximising margins enabled the full power of Boxing Day (26th December) to be experienced at its zenith. That Care Bear you bought for £10 on 24th December is now only £5. Thus the January sale would tempt out weary shoppers once more in search of bargains, or merely to spend their Christmas-present gift tokens at optimum efficiency.

In recent years modern retailing pressures have brought about the pre-Christmas sale, whereby discounts are offered in advance of the great day. We’re just about used to that now, and the Daily Mail articles about canny shoppers waiting until the last few days before 25th to watch any extra discounting opportunities open up for them. It’s been a game of brinkmanship between retailer and shopper: whose nerve would hold? Who would cave in first?

Now, for the last two years, into this heady mix has intruded the US phenomenon known as Black Friday. Starting ever-so-tentatively the year before, 2014 saw our first full-blooded, crush-inducing, red-in-tooth-and-claw mad-discount day play out before the nation’s eyes, either live in-store or more gently as a spectator sport through copious TV coverage.

As we approach Black Friday 2015 the nation’s retailers are divided. Professional footfall analysts have demonstrated that Black Friday last year had a significant effect in reducing shopper numbers for Boxing Day, the traditional UK ‘bargain buster’. Accordingly, some shops will ignore Black Friday this time around, others will embrace it all over again. So, does Black Friday add sales, or merely time-shift them? Not a question I can answer, but we wish all retailers the best of festive seasons from your partners in the licensing business.