Asda skips Black Friday because of ‘shopper fatigue’

Published: Tuesday 10th November 2015 by The News Editor

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Asda has announced it will not be part of Black Friday this year, citing “shopper fatigue” around the one-day sales event.

The retailer said customer feedback was behind its decision to invest in £26 million of savings for shoppers across the season rather than a one-off day of sales.

It claimed shopper fatigue had set in around flash sales on big-ticket, non-essential items at Christmas.

The Walmart-owned store, credited with introducing Black Friday to the UK in 2013, faced criticism for its poor handling of the event last year when shoppers fought over deals in stores.

But Asda president and chief executive Andy Clarke said the decision to move away from Black Friday was not about the event itself, but rather that customers said they would prefer deals on products that impacted on their everyday lives, such as Christmas food and drink and household basics.

Mr Clarke said: “Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales.

“With an ever-changing retail landscape, now more than ever we must listen carefully to exactly what our shoppers want and be primed and ready to act the minute their needs change.

“When it comes to putting customers first, Asda has always led the way, which is why we’re just as confident in our decision to step away from Black Friday as we were in introducing it to the UK.”

Last year’s chaos around the event – at stores other than just Asda – prompted Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, to condemn lax security arrangements in place to cope with the huge crowds.

Footage from Asda in Wembley, north west London, showed security staff struggling to contain a crowd of shoppers grappling for cut-price televisions.

Some customers had to be separated as the sale sparked furious exchanges, while two women were seen wrestling over a TV.

But Asda’s decision is the first by a major retailer to move away from Black Friday, an event now widely regarded as a permanent and unavoidable fixture on the UK retail calendar.

Just last month, John Lewis commercial director Paula Nickolds confirmed that the department store would be part of Black Friday again this year, despite reservations voiced by managing director Andy Street early this year that it hit profitability and caused havoc on the high street.

Ms Nickolds said: “John Lewis has no choice. We are part of this whether we want to be or not.

“We are absolutely committed to our Never Knowingly Undersold pledge and this means we are part of this event.

“We are anticipating that Black Friday will be bigger than ever this year.”

Bryan Roberts, retail insights director at Kantar Retail, said Asda was returning to its everyday low price (EDLP) heritage, a strategy that is key to Walmart’s operations and saves retail stores the effort and expense needed to mark down prices during sale events while generating shopper loyalty.

He said: “Black Friday is quite expensive for retailers to operate in terms of sourcing products, extra security and disruption to staff schedules.

“It’s clearly great for getting shoppers into stores but from a retailer’s point of view it’s deemed as being slightly too disruptive.

“This is a courageous move by Asda but, having looked at what their customers actually want, they feel it’s the right one for them.”

Sophie McCarthy, retail analyst at Conlumino, said: “The real focus for grocers right now is stabilising their balance sheet, so Black Friday won’t help them at all with this.”

Published: Tuesday 10th November 2015 by The News Editor

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