Black Friday a ‘necessary evil’, says Hughes boss

Robert Hughes at the Bennetts electrical store Hall Road Norwich.Photo by Simon Finlay

Robert Hughes at the Bennetts electrical store Hall Road Norwich.Photo by Simon Finlay - Credit: EDP pics © 2011(01603) 772434

The boss of a leading independent retailer has labelled Black Friday a 'necessary evil', despite seeing it deliver bumper sales.

Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley, north west London take advantage of the store's Black Friday

Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley, north west London take advantage of the store's Black Friday offers. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire - Credit: PA

Robert Hughes, managing director of Lowestoft-based Hughes Electrical, said high value sales on the run up to Christmas were at risk because customers now bought lots of cheap products over one weekend.

But he said customer demand meant retailers could not afford to shirk the event, which his company has spent three months planning for.

It comes as a number of retailers – including ASDA – are abandoning this week's promotion and online discount day Cyber Monday because it encourages shops to sell at a low margin during a key sales period.

More than £721m will be spent online on Visa cards during Black Friday, according to Visa Europe, which expects a further £1.1bn to be spent on the high street.

Mr Hughes, who runs stores in Norwich and across the region, said: 'Most retailers privately view the Black Friday weekend as a necessary evil – it compresses higher value sales from November and December into a weekend discounting glut that challenges the supply chain and eventual customer experience.

'It has spilled over from an internet to an in-store event that arouses shoppers 'hunter gatherer' instincts in the search for a bargain. Home entertainment products are at the heart of this frenzy and judging by the widespread coverage of customers fighting over LCD televisions last year, we can expect the same again this year.

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'Customers will not want to miss out and retailers cannot afford to miss out. As a result, we have spent three months planning events around this weekend and have bought in more stock with more deals than ever before.'

More than three quarters (77pc) of UK retailers expect a better festive sales performance this year thanks to Black Friday, research by Barclays has found.

It stated that 77pc of retailers looked set to hold a Black Friday promotion, demonstrating how the American discount day has gained traction in the UK.

But there are concerns from industry analysts that the weekend of discounting could eventually replace the traditional Boxing Day sale.

Mr Hughes added: 'Last year the Black Friday weekend matched the Boxing day to New Year winter sales for us both in-store and online – this year we expect the Black Friday weekend to beat what had previously been our busiest time of year.

'Collectively Hughes will do more business across the two events but that is because we have put in more effort, marketing and discounts than ever before. We may end up being busy fools but our instinct as retailers is to respond to what the customer wants and they certainly seem to want this event.'

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