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How can the U.K’s small businesses get involved in Black Friday?

So, it’s Black Friday again. The U.K.’s queuing up outside department stores, hovering over their mouses and zooming in on the items they’ve had their eyes on for months. A few years ago, Black Friday was nothing more than “that thing they did in America.” But now instead of laughing at our friends across the pond fight over TVs, we’re bookmarking our favourite deals and awaiting the countdown. 

Joining in the Black Friday buzz has become crucial for businesses everywhere but more often than not, it’s larger enterprises who benefit. Times are changing, and consumers are becoming increasingly more interested in shopping local and supporting small businesses. So, how can the small businesses of the U.K. join in this November 29th? 

Shopping local: How small businesses are taking over the U.K.

When you look at the data, there’s nothing “small” about small businesses at all. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy found that at the start of 2018, 99.9% of the 5.7 million registered businesses in the U.K. were either small or medium in size. 

That’s nearly 100% of the U.K. economy and the figure is expected to continue growing… 

Small businesses are instrumental to the economy, so why is it larger corporations who get all the attention on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Initiatives like Small Business Saturday were brought into the equation to combat this. The goal being to shine a spotlight on shopping local. 

But, what if business owners want to get involved in both? Well, if you’re considering slashing your prices and waving the Black Friday banner, here’s everything you need to know about the nations spending habits on the day and how you can get involved. 

Spending and trending 

How much do we spend on Black Friday sales in the UK? 

According to comparison site, finder, in 2018, the average Brit spent £220 on Black Friday sales, and 37% of us will defer buying something until it goes on sale. But let’s dive a little deeper…

The generational breakdown

  1. Gen X spent the most averaging £264

  2. Baby boomers followed in second with an average spend of £214

  3. Last but not least, 18-35-year-olds spent £190 

The regional breakdown

  1. The north-east spent the most with an average of £286

  2. Northern Irish residents spend an average of £285

  3. Londoners splashed out an average of £279 on deals 

  4. The average shopper in the south-west spends roughly £139 

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What are we buying? 

As a small business, there are a few spending trends to look out for before considering getting involved. PWC’s survey highlighted a few of these. 

As Black Friday’s reach grows in the U.K., 1 in 6 of us will now look to buy something. But it’s what we buy that’s truly interesting–electricals. Slowly but surely electricals have stolen the show and become the main purchase category with 3 in 5 people buying electronics within the spending holiday. 

Straying from last years data, survey respondents said they would be keeping an eye out for fashion deals, with a specific interest in clothing, stocking fillers, toys and beauty products.

Who are we buying for? 

It’s easy to assume that many consumers would use Black Friday as a prime Christmas shopping opportunity, and while you wouldn’t be wrong, the number isn’t as high as you’d expect with roughly 1 in 5 people using the Black Friday period for that reason. 

Surprisingly, three-quarters of under 25s and two-thirds of men expect to only spend on themselves. Showing a little more generosity, two-thirds of female shoppers anticipate buying gifts for their families. 

Finally, PWC found that the most likely age group to purchase for their friends were 18-24 year-olds.

How are we buying? 

It’s no secret that the way we shop has changed. Practically everything has moved online, and Black Friday is no different. This year, it’s predicted that three-quarters of Black Friday shopping will take place online. 

The combination of and increase in our online shopping activity, and shoppers wanting to avoid the queues and bargain fights may have something to do with this.

“Over a third of 35-44-year-olds’ spend overall will be via mobile.”

Why small businesses should participate?

Black Friday has prompted more spending than Christmas for categories like electricals, beauty and toys. So if retailers aren’t taking advantage of this period, they’re not only missing out on some serious sales, but also sending their customers in the direction of larger competitors. 

Many retailers don’t participate in the event as they fear it will negatively impact their Christmas sales. This couldn’t be further from the truth. After surveying high street stores, PWC found that spending has shifted in the last 5 years thanks to Black Friday; 

“In the past two years, we’ve seen retailers launch special promotions for the Black Friday period, before returning to full price and thus preserving margin in the key Christmas present buying period of early-to-mid December, and then discounting once again in the week before Christmas and into the Boxing Day and January sales.”

Small business owners could easily look at participating as daunting as there are a lot of elements that need considering; website promotion, social media ads, shipping costs to name a few. 

How can small businesses participate? 

It’s not all about flashy discounts. There are a few logistics to consider beforehand... 

As the majority of shoppers will be visiting your store online, you need to make sure your website is up and running to perfection. CEO of Reaction Commerce, Sara Hicks, says websites crashing can often be the reason businesses lose money on Black Friday.  

"The key to avoiding a website failure during a busy shopping day includes testing, building up your backend and a backup plan. It's integral to understand what your platform can handle in terms of email blasts driving extra traffic, promotions that may get picked up by other sites and more.” 

Separate from the online world, you’ll need to consider your in-store experience. Your shop will be busier, and while that’s great you need to overcome the rush. Create a flow in your store by considering everything from the positioning of your products to the capabilities of your card reader. While it can be an afterthought, speedy payments are integral. 

Looking at the above Black Friday spending trends, consider how your business can accommodate and benefit from them. You’ll also need to be prepared when it comes to stock and shipping. Stay on top of shipping costs and times, and consider dealing with returns and exchanges. 

Finally, the most significant move you can make is investing in strong marketing. Make your offer heard, tease the event, and be sure to get the message out there in the run-up to Black Friday. Many retailers have even had their sales go live for one or two weeks in the run-up to the final Thursday of each November. 


Anna Marie Allgaier