The Black Friday discounting game

Essential Retail’s digital features editor, Caroline Baldwin, chats through her Black Friday experience, which soon turned sour.

Black Friday. A nightmare for retailers, joy for those customers who manage to grab themselves a bargain.

This blog is from a customer perspective. My perspective. After two of my all-time favourite retailers really toyed with my emotions this week.

This Black Friday, I was prepared, I woke up early and got in front of my laptop to secure the deals of the day.

First stop was Emma Bridgewater to buy a Christmas gift for my mother. 25% off on Friday and 20% off the rest of the weekend – brilliant, those customers who shop on Friday get rewarded with extra discounts. I even cheekily bought myself a gift, because at that price my desperate ‘penny-saving-to-buy-a-house’ malarkey could be put on hold to have a gorgeous Christmas platter at 25% off. And considering I wouldn’t have bought that full price, Emma Bridgewater definitely got an upsell out of me that day.

My shopping behaviour dabbled in Debenhams (all three items were delivered on different days, but perhaps that’s a fulfilment blog for another day) and a couple of other retailers, and I definitely didn’t stick to my gift list and ended up buying a few extra bits and pieces that I probably didn’t need, having been sucked into the sales. Upsell win for the retailers there.

Last stop was an unexpected email from Bloom & Wild offering 15% off, knowing I needed to send some flowers to my mum for her birthday in a couple of weeks, I snapped up the offer and bought a bunch using their fantastic app and scheduled it for delivery mid-December.

All shopping done in 30 minutes. Winner.

The next day (the Saturday of Black Friday weekend), I receive an email from Bloom & Wild offering me 20% off their bouquets. Hmmm, well that’s a tad annoying. But I tried not to dwell on a pound or two I could have saved had I waited until after Black Friday.

Parcels began arriving in work from the Monday, and when my Emma Bridgewater box arrived, I was just so chuffed with my purchases I started dreaming of serving up Christmas dinner using my lovely festive platter. Fast forward less than a week to 1 December and my colleague sends me an email to the Emma Bridgewater site which is hosting a 50% sale on selected items, and you got it, my festive design is half price.

As a customer, I’m livid. This wasn’t an extra 5% reduction, or even 10%, this was double the discount, well after the Black Friday shopping event that this retail industry has encouraged over the last few years. I understand discounting heavily after Christmas, or even in the week beforehand to ensure you get rid of your seasonal stock, but not on 1 December.

I know, you retailers out there will be thinking I got my discount, why am I disappointed and trying to be greedy, but it’s about the disappointment and brand damage. Brands like Emma Bridgewater and Bloom & Wild are selling emotion with their products. It’s not like buying a pyjama set from Debenhams which is a ‘nice to have’ – beautiful, collectable crockery or a bunch of stunning flowers comes with a feeling a joy. Before Emma Bridgewater’s ridiculous half-price post-Black Friday sale, I looked at my plate and felt 90% joy and 10% guilt for spending money on myself this close to Christmas, but now, all I feel is guilt and disappointment.

And is that brand damage really repairable? I’m not so sure.

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