Amazon is to extend its Black Friday promotion to almost two weeks as retailers gear up for the biggest shopping day of the year. Billions of pounds is expected to be spent by shoppers over the Black Friday weekend, starting 25 November, and over the 12 days in the run-up to it.
Last year, on Black Friday, Amazon sold more than 7.4m items in the UK, a record for the company involving sales at a rate of 86 items a second.
Black Friday has grown rapidly in the UK after Amazon transferred the idea from across the Atlantic in 2010 by offering deals to British customers.
This year, starting on 14 November, Amazon intends to offer discounts on products over the 12 days in the run-up to Black Friday. It will offer double the number of deals compared to last year. The online retailer said it was extending its promotions, which ran for about a week last year, in response to customer feedback.
The announcement shows that retailers are preparing for another hectic period of shopping, but also that they are trying to spread out consumer spending. Black Friday has been marred by chaotic scenes in shops as people have rushed to pick up discounts and websites have crashed due to the number of visits.
Black Friday involves online and high-street retailers offering a range of discounts on products. Its origins are disputed but the craze began in the US about 50 years ago. Black Friday is the day after the public holiday for Thanksgiving. Retailers have traditionally cut their prices to encourage consumers back into the shops.
Some claim the name can be traced back to the police in Philadelphia, who gave the nickname to the day after Thanksgiving because of the chaos that ensued in the city as shoppers headed to the high street at the same time as spectators went to the annual Army vs Navy American football match. However, some retail historians claim the day is called Black Friday because it marks the day when retailers move from making a loss to a profit for the first time in the year.
Black Friday led to scuffles in British supermarkets when Asda and Tesco ran in-store promotions in 2013 and 2014. Police had to be called to Tesco stores in 2014 as shoppers scrambled to pick up deals. Britain’s biggest retailer was subsequently criticised for launching its Black Friday deals at midnight.
However, last year Black Friday was a more subdued occasion in supermarkets and high streets, with shoppers choosing to look for deals online instead of in shops. Tesco delayed the opening of its shops until 5am, leading to much smaller queues outside its supermarkets.
The surge in spending on Black Friday in the last six years has transformed the build-up to Christmas for retailers in Britain. It has brought forward spending from December and concentrated it in a tighter period, putting pressure on shops, websites and warehouses.
Amazon has more than doubled its UK workforce for November and December, bringing in 20,000 temporary seasonal workers.
Doug Gurr, the UK country manager for Amazon, said: “In response to positive customer feedback for Black Friday deals, we are introducing the Black Friday Sale – 12 days of fantastic deals on must-have gifts and products, saving our customers millions of pounds.
“We’re also thrilled to have over 1,000 small businesses featuring in our Black Friday sale, broadening the selection for our customers and enabling those businesses to boost their sales in the run-up to Christmas.”
Although Black Friday is the biggest shopping day in Britain and the US, Singles’ Day in China is the biggest day for shopping worldwide. This day, a Friday, has been promoted as a shopping event by Alibaba, the Chinese online retailer. Analysts at the accountancy firm KMPG believe sales could exceed $20bn (£16bn) this year, up from $14bn last year.
Alibaba will kick off its Singles’ Day promotions with a televised gala on Thursday evening, with David Beckham replacing the singer Katy Perry as the event’s “global ambassador” after she pulled out at the last minute.
Paul Martin, head of UK retail at KPMG, said: “Given the continual growth in popularity of Chinese Singles’ Day, there is no doubt that sales this year will be bigger than ever. It reinforces the growing buying power of the Chinese consumer and the increasing prominence of the date in the retail calendar.
“With such consumer attention placed on Singles’ Day, we could see sales jump significantly as major campaigns launched in Hong Kong and Taiwan encourage consumers to join in the action.”
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