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Are you ready to take on Black Friday?

Artwork: David Biskup/Wired

So 2017 is wrapping up, which means for us sellers that our busiest time of year has finally arrived. 
We spend a good chunk of the year planning how best to take advantage of the massive upswing in sales over the Yule period, but are you taking full advantage of the holidays?

In the last few years, 'Black Friday' has dominated the media as the shopping tradition for post-Thanksgiving sales which has eventually made it's way over to the UK. Typically in North America, the morning after Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping period, and most retailers take advantage of shopper's willingness to begin shopping in earnest by radically discounting stock for one day only. 

The buzz created in the States by this shopping craze has held mass appeal in the UK, and we've now seen an upswing in our own retailers using the Black Friday sale to massively increase their own profit over the holiday season. For many this is a huge boon, given the decrease in Christmas revenue that we've experienced across the highstreet in the last decade or so. 

In 2016, £6.45bn was taken by British retail over the Black Friday trading week, £1.23bn of which was attributed to online sales; an increase trend of +12.2% on the previous year. Business insiders are expecting these figures to increase again this year in the UK as more and more retailers elect to slash their prices both in store and online to compete with the big brand names and the rest of the highstreet.
The Monday following these mega-sales is catching up with Black Friday in terms of both popularity amongst shoppers and also revenue generated for retailers. This is known as 'Cyber Monday', so called because this is statistically the busiest online shopping day in the holiday period. As such, big brands have taken advantage of the Black Friday fever to deliver excellent deals to customers shopping exclusively online. 

It can be a daunting task to dive into a Black Friday mega sale, but the rewards of doing so can far outweigh the costs, so here are our top tips for making the most of Black Friday and Cyber Monday in your own business!

  • Plan your discounts.

Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) shoppers are looking for some serious bargains. In 2016, Amazon experienced an online backlash from shoppers when the discounts they applied to items across their sales week were perceived to be mainly on unpopular stock or weren't heavy enough to persuade shoppers to buy. 
That's not to say that you should give your stock away, but be prepared to slash prices to at least 50% off of the ticket price, if not more! 
Choose a healthy range of stock, both old and new season to discount so shoppers feel they're really getting a bargain!

  • Don't forget your marketing!

There's so much to plan for if you have a bricks and mortar store, that sometimes your marketing can fall by the wayside. Just remember- If they don't know about your sale, they won't come! 
Make sure that you're plugging your sale non stop to generate a buzz in your community for the fortnight running up to the sale. Invest in sale signage and banners for your shop front to draw in passing trade, and create the ideal sales atmosphere. 

It's also prudent to keep an eye on the competition. You'll be competing closely to maximise your own sales, so make sure that you're checking in regularly with your fellow retailers to make sure you're staying on point with your own campaign and matching their discounts, customer service and level of advertising!

  • Be physically and digitally prepared.

With your marketing and sales plans in place, you can likely expect a huge upswing in sales, so you need to be prepared both in store and online to handle to demand. 
In your store, you may want to consider hiring temporary holiday staff to cope with managing your footfall and cash desk. It can be overwhelming for a high footfall store to maintain POS standards whilst shoppers try to grab as many discounts as possible, and Black Friday shoppers especially have been known to occasionally get out of control. 

Take into account the need for extra carrier bags, promotional leaflets, till rolls etc- The minutiae of cash desk basics that are often forgotten but could be devastating if you run out during the sale.

Update your online store with banners and CTAs advertising your online sale portal. Can your website handle a surge in activity? Check that your shopping platform is able to take the strain without crashing your site, and ensure that your site is 100% responsive and mobile friendly, as many shoppers now prefer to browse away from desktop on mobile devices.

  • Track EVERYTHING. 

Keeping on top of your KPIs, customer feedback and stock levels for the sales period is a great litmus test for what is working and failing in your business. Whilst it can of course be a stressful time for any retailer to build a door-busting sale like BFCM, the huge footfall is the ideal way to check that all of your engines are running at their optimised speed. 
Small issues that you've previously ignored such as staff training issues, website optimisation or courier company problems tend to be conflated during times of high turnover, so try not to stress out when they happen, but instead see them as a red flag for a change in your business that will ultimately assist you in the coming New Year. 

Many of the huge name retails spend months planning their BFCM sales, with good reason. It's the kind of event that you can't plan too much- That said, the daunting nature of throwing one's business at the mercy of BFCM shoppers needn't be the mountainous task that it seems for independent stores.

With the right attitude, common sense and forward thinking, there's no reason why your store can't benefit directly from this new phenomenon, and hopefully take your books from red to black

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