Black Friday: Online retail’s busiest day of the year

Even the best detective would struggle to find a Brit who doesn't love a bargain. This is perhaps why every high street store and e-retailer site is covered in 'sale' signs and promotional posters these days - it's just the easiest way to draw shoppers in. While this is the case pretty much all-year-round, there's one particular day that has stronger links to discounted goods than any other: Black Friday.

So what is it?

A tradition with roots firmly in the US, the popularity of Black Friday has been picking up pace on this side of the Atlantic ever since it was introduced here by Amazon in 2010. Its history actually goes as far back as the early 1960s, when the term was used to describe the extra footfall Philadelphia's main shopping areas would experience the day after Thanksgiving - one of the country's biggest national holidays.

The event still takes place on this same day every year (the fourth Friday of November) but the tables have been somewhat turned. Now, instead of referring to the disruptive effects of extra pedestrian and road traffic, retailers actually encourage people to shop by offering significant, one-off discounts on popular products.

Of course, with so much of the UK's retail spending now taking place over the internet, everything's a little more convenient for both merchants and shoppers - and some of the offers reflect this.

Unparalleled popularity

A quick image search of Black Friday will give you a good idea of just how big a thing this is, in the US at least. Only the stats do it real justice, though. Last year, Brits spent £100 million across the 24-hour period, with £4 million of this spent on products from Amazon alone. More than this, 113 million visits were made to retail websites, making it busier than any single shopping day of 2012.

The hype has grown to such an extent that most of the UK's biggest online retailers start their deals before the day itself, and even run them through the following weekend.

The popularity can be put down to a number of reasons. Firstly, some of the deals have to be seen to be believed (it's normal for retailers to cut the prices of certain items by 60 or even 70 per cent). Also, it takes place around one month before Christmas, when sales tend to start picking up anyway. Being at the end of the month, it often falls on payday for a large section of the British public too, meaning most people have a little extra cash to splash.

This Friday

As mentioned above, the relationship between the UK and Black Friday is still in its early stages, but popularity is growing rapidly. Market research firm Mintel, for example, predicts that spending will grow by at least 100 per cent compared to 2013, and even more if you count the surrounding days. When shoppers are spending around £6,000 every second, then, it's easy to see why e-retailers might be getting pretty excited at the moment.

It's not all spend, spend, spend

All of the above notwithstanding, some groups of campaigners have rallied against the corporate world of Black Friday deals. In direct response, 'Giving Tuesday' was set up to try and remind people of how lucky they are. The day - purposefully falling less than a week after Black Friday - encourages people to think about those less fortunate than themselves and share the joy of receiving by donating to charity. Those without money to spend are also encouraged to get involved, by giving up their time or energy to helping people - whether it's the wider community or simply their closest family members.

Supported by renowned philanthropist Bill Gates, Giving Tuesday has been hailed as an antidote to Black Friday that's arguably much more festive.

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