Two business leaders are urging customers to use or lose small businesses and shop local this Black Friday and Christmas after the pandemic spelt the end for many independent retailers.
Experts from the Government’s High Streets Task Force and Federation of Small Businesses have called for consumers to support local companies during this festive season.
Hundreds of firms have already launched ‘sales’ to entice consumers this Black Friday with the day becoming one of the biggest global shopping events, with millions stocking up on Christmas presents or self-gifting.
However, after a difficult couple of years for companies, mainly due to the pandemic, many smaller firms will struggle to offer the same large discounts as the internet giants.
Experts are asking consumers to shop at small firms this Black Friday and support local stores
Not only do consumers have a role to play, experts argue, but some larger firms are also attempting to help smaller businesses this year either by rewarding customers for shopping with them or giving discounts directly to the small shops themselves.
This is Money speaks to experts about why shopping local matters and reveals what small businesses can do for help and how consumers can support their local firms.
What are experts asking consumers to do this year?
Experts have called for consumers to think about where they are buying from before they make a purchase this Black Friday.
Martin McTague, national vice-chair of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: ‘We encourage people to think independent when buying on Black Friday.
‘Many small retailers have struggled to stay afloat during the pandemic, especially those community businesses with bricks and mortar premises that were unable to open for long spells.
‘If you value the high-quality specialist advice, carefully sourced items, and community focus of your local independent shops, online or on the high street, you can demonstrate that by choosing to buy from them this Black Friday and throughout the festive season.’
Others have criticised the effect Black Friday has had on small businesses and are calling on consumers to ensure they shop local as much as they can.
It’s great to see that more people are realising it will be better for people and the planet this year to have gifts from small local businesses under their trees rather than spending their hard-earned cash to propel billionaires into space.
Dr Jackie Mulligan – Government’s High Streets Task Force
They have warned the rest of this year could be ‘make or break’ for a number of local firms.
Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force, said: ‘Black Friday is the Grinch that stole Christmas for many smaller retailers.
‘The big beasts of online shopping have used this American import as a battering ram to grab people’s attention and drive a surge in revenue long before the traditional Christmas shopping rush.
‘Black Friday purchases made on Amazon or other online giants are often a black eye to the small high street retailer. So this year, after the turmoil of the pandemic, we’re encouraging everyone, whenever possible, to shop local.
‘After pandemic restrictions made last Christmas a brutal one for bricks and mortar stores, the next four to five weeks will be make or break time for many smaller retailers.
‘Fortunately there are signs that many shoppers are starting to see through the crude commercialism, and huge environmental cost, of this annual festive shopping event, with a recent survey showing only a third of adults plan to support it this year.
‘It’s great to see that more people are realising it will be better for people and the planet this year to have gifts from small local businesses under their trees rather than spending their hard-earned cash to propel billionaires into space.’
Some experts have said if customers don’t shop at small firms, they may face closure this year
How have small firms been affected?
Many independent retailers increasingly dread Black Friday as they are unable to take the hit to profits by offering discounts, especially leading into the holidays, the most important time of the year.
The result is that the £7.5billion expected to be spent this Black Friday will predominantly be at large retailers, tech giants and supermarkets.
After a year when 1,442 independent retailers were forced to close in the UK, many more have faced a combination of challenges including further lockdowns, the end of business rates relief and the moratorium on business rent.
While, fortunately, a large number are still trading, they will be concerned about the impact Black Friday could add.
What is being done to help small businesses?
There are some, larger companies that are looking to help their smaller counterparts this Black Friday.
For example, Ankorstore, a marketplace connecting independent brands with local retailers, offered a minimum 10 per cent discount on all products from 25 October to 2 November for small retailers with brands able to add additional discounts.
The firm, which works with more than 20,000 independent retailers in the UK, offered the discount so that brands are able to have sufficient margins to offer sale prices to their customers for the first time and compete with global players.
The discount was applied one month before Black Friday so independent retailers had time to shop for their inventories at discounted prices and can then apply their own discounts to customers in November.
Nicolas D’Audiffret, co-founder of Ankorstore, said: ‘Black Friday has typically been a shopping event driven by larger retailers with the scale and buying power to drive down costs with volume.
‘On Black Friday they also offer steep discounts through loss leaders — products which they forego margin on to drive sales elsewhere.
‘We decided to level the playing field by offering small independent retailers the same advantage, at a time when healthy seasonal sales are more important to them than ever, by giving up our own margin.’
Companies like Amazon are making it easier for customers to find small firms to buy from
The firm claim offering the discount has been a massive success so far with more than 3,500 brands teaming up with Ankorstore.
It said it is able to offer such large discounts due to its scale and therefore has managed to reduce the costs of shipping and payment terms solutions and is passing these savings onto its customers.
Meanwhile, even Amazon, one of the biggest Black Friday drivers, has also introduced Support Small Storefront, where customers can support local small businesses and shop by region.
Customers can also explore a wide selection of gift ideas on the Small Business Gift Finder and across Amazon – but it is still best to just simply pop into a local shop to buy items.
While it won’t be in time for Black Friday, it is also thought American Express’ Christmas Shop Small will be going ahead this year.
Last year, cardmembers could receive a £5 statement credit when they spend £10 or more in-store at participating small businesses between 5 to 20 December in a bid to encourage customers to spend local.
Is Black Friday the best time to buy?
This is Money previously reported that many popular items bought on Black Friday are actually cheaper at other times of year.
Analysis of a basket of goods in the two months before Black Friday 2020, on the PriceSpy site, showed the same ten items cost a total of 18 per cent more on the day itself – a difference of £488.66.
The items included some of the most popular sold on the platform during Black Friday last year such as headphones, coffee machines, laptops, mobiles and games consoles.
Overall, the research found that, generally, the best prices for items over the course of a year are almost exclusively outside of Black Friday.
‘There is no connection between Black Friday and British Christmas shopping traditions’
Paul Thompson, Director at Wilde & Harte Ltd, a small retailer that designs and manufactures quintessential shaving accessories, is just one of the local stores taking a stand against Black Friday.
Paul Thompson is the director at a small store that doesn’t take part in Black Friday
Thompson said: ‘We do not take part in Black Friday. Wilde & Harte is a British brand, sourcing manufacturing and other components for our shaving accessories from British businesses only.
‘Black Friday is an American promotion, backed by American based retailers to kick-start the Christmas shopping season just after Thanksgiving. We believe there is no connection between Black Friday and British Christmas shopping traditions.’
He adds that making their products takes time and its prices reflect the time that is put into making the items.
‘To bring a Wilde & Harte razor to market involves many highly skilled processes. Our product prices reflect the time involved bringing high end products to market.
‘To apply an arbitrary discount on our products simply to sell more stock over one heavily promoted weekend, especially when many other brands are doing exactly the same, does not make business sense.
‘Furthermore, many of our razors are manufactured from 100 per cent stainless steel and purchased with a lifetime guarantee, so with no product shelf life, we are not under pressure to sell stock before a particular date, or by the start of a new season.’
The environment is also a factor to consider, he says, with the day offering many unnecessary purchases.
He said: ‘How many of us really need that extra television? Or that item of clothing similar to what we already own?
‘Unnecessary purchasing puts additional strain on supply and logistical chains which is compounded when items get returned once the reality of an overspend is realised, causing more strain on couriers and air freight.
‘Another question to ask ourselves is: Are popular items bought on Black Friday actually cheaper at other times of year? Retail is a very complex and competitive industry. If you want to buy a specific product, the chances are you can purchase it discounted during other times of the year.’
He is also encouraging consumers to buy direct from the product brands own website. This way, the maximum profit goes to the brand to help with product development and business longevity.
Other tips include identifying a product you need, then research online to see if it’s available locally. This may not always be the cheapest price, however, you could ask the local retailer to price match?
Purchasing locally reduces your environmental impact, plus you’re more likely to receive better service.
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