Retailers say people can make a huge difference provided they don’t ‘blow all their money on Amazon’.
The annual day of apparent discounts drives huge volumes of business online, with many buyers caught up in the excitement.
But investigations have found few genuine savings, with goods cheaper at other times of year, while disappointment is common as goods fail to live up to their billing.
WHY IS BLACK FRIDAY A THREAT TO INDEPENDENTS?
Division and Devonshire Street - the road changes name half way along - in the city centre is one of the few where it is still possible to ‘have a mooch’ in interesting shops and places to eat, feel the goods on offer and enjoy the shopping experience, according to Stuart McAdie, owner of The Alternative Store.Black Friday threatens all that.
He said: “A lot of it is about creating a frenzy online, where the big guys will dominate. But I’ve found a lot of people are coming back to shopping after the pandemic and loving the experience.
“But some come in and say shopping is terrible in Sheffield and where’s soandso? And it turns out they haven’t been in for four years.
"A lot of areas are struggling during this transition period. Devonshire Street still has a lot to offer and a healthy mix of shops and places to eat - but if you blow all your money on Amazon, then guess what?”
Lucy Savage, of The Savage Sister vintage designer fashion store in The Forum on Devonshire Street, said they had put 100 items on a Black Friday 20 per cent discount sale rail but felt ‘forced’ into it and believed it was bad for shops like hers.
She added: “People are buying mass produced goods that are just waiting to go into landfill. We are selling premium, handpicked, sustainable items sold locally.
“Black Friday puts a lot of pressure on people to spend. Shops try to keep up with the big players but their margins aren’t as big.”
WHY DO SOME INDEPENDENTS TAKE PART IN BLACK FRIDAY?
Debbie Moon, of dried flower shop Moonko on Division Street, said many small shops were still recovering from lockdown closures, had few reserves and couldn’t afford to offer discounts that wiped out profits on slim margins.
She bought goods from a network of local makers who were in the same position, she added. But although she wasn’t participating in Black Friday, she understood why some independents did.
“It brings in customers but will it retain them, or are they only there for the sale? Habits have changed, but people still like to see items first.
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“People make a special trip to come to me for the personal relationship and customer service, I’m nice and approachable.”
A British Independent Retailers Association survey found a record 85 per cent of members would not be slashing prices on Black Friday.
Chief executive Andrew Goodacre said: “At the start of the pandemic, we saw customers turn to online providers because there was no other choice, and the large companies such as Amazon were the big winners.
"Whilst we, in some ways, admire what Amazon does, the pandemic highlighted the unfair playing field between high street shops and online retailers.”
Some firms are reportedly closing their doors and websites and boycotting the day.
But not Nigel Tyas Ironwork in Millhouse Green, Sheffield.
Managing director Gareth Lowe said: “We did have a little fun last year with our ‘blacksmith Friday’ to highlight a few oddments/prototype items we sold as one-off designs but thankfully the Americanised Black Friday regime isn’t one we choose to follow. So don’t form an orderly queue for a bargain, just come in a see what we are always doing.”
HOW MANY REAL BLACK FRIDAY BARGAINS DID AN INVESTIGATION FIND?
Meanwhile, consumer group Which? found more than 90 per cent of Black Friday deals were the same price or cheaper in the six months before the sales event last year.
It said 184 out of 201 items from six retailers, which included Amazon and John Lewis, were priced the same or cheaper before Black Friday in 2020.
The consumer association told shoppers to make sure the discounts were ‘truly genuine’ this year.
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Earlier this week, Diane Jarvis, head of business operations at Sheffield BID, called on residents to do as much of their Christmas shopping locally as they can to aid the city’s post-Covid recovery.With large retailers running huge sales and discounts for Black Friday next week, Ms Jarvis said it was more important than ever to spend money on Sheffield’s high street, as well as supporting our many independents and smaller businesses.She said: “The high street has taken a real beating over the past 20 months and this Christmas will be the most crucial of times for many businesses."
HOW WELL IS SHEFFIELD RECOVERING FROM THE PANDEMIC?
But Sheffield City Council had some good news after posting the best high street recovery score of the 63 largest towns and cities in the UK in September.According to data from Centre for Cities, the city centre saw a big increase in footfall in September, reaching 89 per cent of the pre-pandemic average – way above the UK urban average of 73 per cent.The authority is putting it partly down to events.
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Coun Mazher Iqbal, executive member for city futures development, culture and regeneration, said: “After such a difficult time with the pandemic, the latest figures showcasing an increased footfall in Sheffield are promising to see and highlight everyone’s desire to get back into the city centre and support small business and community events.”This Christmas, Sheffield will be ‘buzzing’ with events and activities including the Christmas Market, Alpine Bar and Lodge, ‘The View’ Big Wheel and Santa’s Grotto.He added: “As a council we are committed to supporting economic recovery, helping independent businesses, particularly as they bounce back from the challenges of the pandemic, and maintaining a thriving city centre.”