Points North: Sue Benson, managing director at The Market Creative

David Prior's picture
by David Prior


Each Friday, Points North gives a senior media figure a platform to air their views on a topical or relevant issue.

This week it's Sue Benson, managing director of retail specialist The Market Creative. She looks at how the high street handled Black Friday and Cyber Monday and asks what these American imports could mean for our shopping habits.

Sifting through the headlines in the aftermath of Black Friday, it’s clear to see who are the winners and the losers.

What was a dream result for some - John Lewis enjoyed its best sales week in history - became a nightmare for others. Shopper frenzy resulted in scraps over TVs, and bargain hunters described as ‘animals’ in scenes likened to ‘war zones’.

This has been the most widely adopted Black Friday in UK retail. While we weren’t quite prepared for how big it would be, I also have to question, did we really get it?

Sue - SmallThis is another American tradition we’re quick to embrace. Halloween is widely known as a US holiday with trick or treating, parties and pumpkins all cherished by families on this side of the pond too. This works because we fundamentally understand it, it originated in Britain, it’s part of our heritage.

Conversely, in the US, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have a clear purpose, marking the Friday and Monday following Thanksgiving. But here, they have nothing to do with us at all - they are normal working days, not linked to our holiday season, family occasion, feast or a religious day.

As such, they don’t mean anything, we don’t understand them, yet retailers are putting out all kinds of promotions to mark the occasion and of course shoppers shout Hallelujah.

Some execution was better than others. PC World, Currys and Game were my particular retail heroes. They played around with the idea and came up with names for their promotions, events, special opening hours all executed consistently and with brand relevance.

But there were many more who simply jumped on the bandwagon - discounting products to take advantage of the hype without any big idea that translated consistently across channels or resonated with brand values.

All we’ve seen is a shifting shopper trend to pre-Christmas. Traditionally our festive sales extravaganzas are linked around Christmas, kicking-off on Boxing Day, yet every year this starts earlier – and now with Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

Already there’s been speculation around shoppers planning to spend less in the January sales. And it’s likely to mark an end to Boxing Day’s title as the biggest shopping day of the year.

What we have seen over the last week will undoubtedly get bigger and better as we learn and make the concept our own. But we have to give it relevance and meaning to deliver a more sophisticated shopper experience and less of a battlefield. Perhaps it will become our new family shopping date or bank holiday.

Sue Benson is managing director of retail specialist The Market Creative

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