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Black Friday looks a bit off colour

It’s funny how we no longer get advance warnings of Black Friday mayhem or appalling scenes of shoppers battling each other over bargains.

Let’s face it, the phenomenon ain’t what it used to be. In fact, there’s many a part of the country where you’re likely to be walking through fashion shops to the sound of my own footsteps

According to retail gurus, a majority of the UK chain stores dislike the idea of binge-buying; mainly because it distorts spend and creates an expectation of low prices just when premium Christmas stuff is going onto the shelves.

Over half of UK shoppers now prefer to do their buying online. The impact on Black Friday is obvious. Last year, sales made on smartphones outstripped desktop transactions for the first time and the trend is now firmly established.

Something else on the increase is “show-rooming” where we customers check out items in a store then go online to buy the product from a distributor who can sell cheaper because they don’t carry the same overheads.

Put all this against the backdrop of closures and profit warnings from the big names and you have the makings of a perfect storm that is already blowing through the High street and across empty shopping-mall car parks.

No-one can say either whether there’s an environmental trade-off as individual car journeys made to stores and shopping centres are replaced by fewer but longer truck & delivery van movements. None of the studies make for concise reading or even agree on methodology.

What is clear however is that property interest in retail is in decline as margins get tight and rentals no longer stack up. It’s a tough time for the industry and likely to get tougher.

Recent thinking, such as a report produced by the Federation of Small Businesses and Llanelli-based consultancy, ‘The Means’, points to a solution that boosts the attractiveness of small towns rather than cities.

Initiatives like Small Business Saturday - which falls this year on 1st December – also flag up how the local perspective has a big place in marketing.

Inevitably it all comes down to whether you’re buying or selling, but at least there’s no shortage of ideas. Let’s hope the customers follow suit.

Sleepwalking into damage

On those rare occasions that I’m asked to lecture, my advice to students is to regard the political process as being largely about the acquisition and retention of power.

Without power, I explain, you cannot effect change. Without power, you cannot act in the best interests of the nation and its people.

The problem with that theory of course is how any notion of promoting the greater good slipped off the national agenda long ago.

What made a Brexit referendum attractive to so many people was the perception that it took a key choice out of the hands of a political class typified by Blair, Brown, Cameron and Clegg – and who had long been focused on their own narrow metro-centric horizons.

Yet, as a comedian said to ironic laughter at a business gig last week, what actually happened what that a hugely complex decision on the nation’s future was left to people who have trouble working out their Netflix preferences.

Nothing says more about the ineptitude and irrelevance of politics today than the spectacle of this nation sleep-walking its way into what looks certain to be irreversible damage. We show no signs of waking up to that fact.


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