An important date in the retail calendar, December 8 was the traditional day for country people to venture to the city to do their Christmas shopping.
The festive atmosphere, the twinkling lights, and a visit to see Santa Claus, it marked the start of the Christmas trading season in Ireland.
Shopping patterns, however, have dramatically changed and Black Friday has replaced December 8 in the retail calendar.
Black Friday is the biggest shopping event of the year in the US, falling the day after Thanksgiving. The sales event falls on November 26 this year
It is believed the name, Black Friday, comes from when accounts were recorded by hand, with profits in black ink and losses in red ink. Shops “went into the black” the day after Thanksgiving as shoppers enjoyed discounts in the sales.
The US import has been embraced by Irish businesses and consumers alike, and while firms want their accounts “in the black”, they want consumers to think green and buy Irish.
Google searches for “Black Friday” in Ireland have soared, up 138% on last year. As well as researching what to buy, Irish shoppers are also keen to shop local with searches for “near me” increasing by 50%.
It is a good omen for Irish business on a mission to turn Black Friday green.
All sorts of Irish businesses have a Black Friday offering from Aer Lingus’ ‘Black Flyday’ discounts to Irish Hotels ‘Go Anywhere’ gift card, while IKEA is encouraging “thoughtful consumption” with its buy back and resell offer.
One of the reasons why the sales day is now an important date for Irish shoppers, according to Austin Hughes, Economist with KBC Bank Ireland, is a legacy of the financial crisis and a reaction to the era of ‘conspicuous consumption’ that preceded it.
“A related development has been a more strategic approach to purchasing big-ticket items only at specific times when on offer.”
The big-ticket items are a big draw on Black Friday and that is why the likes of DID Electrical and Harvey Norman have held back on their Christmas advertising, focusing for the coming week, on the Black Friday event instead.
Mr Hughes also said that higher inflation and a desire to forget about the pandemic is “likely to intensify an inclination towards temporary ‘treat yourself’ moments”.
A relatively new Irish website hoping people will treat themselves to Irish products is Croía Ireland. Over 180 businesses offer over 1,000 Irish made products on the site.
It was set up by Ciara Hennebry on November 25 last year and is marking its anniversary with Black Friday offers.
“We are choosing to promote Green Friday this festive season instead,” Ms Hennebry said. “Green Friday aims to promote ethical consumption and entice people to shop local and small rather than invest their money in large multinational companies overseas.”
Another Irish owned platform is Millies.ie, which sells skincare, haircare and make-up. It enjoyed growth of 300% last year and credits Black Friday with playing a huge part in that success.
Joann Mahon, MD of Millies said, “We significantly invested in our Black Friday event last year and we reaped a healthy return on investment. Black Friday is now our biggest shopping event of the year, and it has grown in importance on our promotional calendar every year.
“Although our Christmas store launched a few weeks ago, it is the Black Friday event that really kicks off the Christmas season for shoppers” – Joann Mahon
Kilkenny Design is opening a new pop-up Christmas shop at Kildare Village, creating 14 jobs.
However, the family-owned Irish retailer was among the first to see the potential of Black Friday and every year, it offers Irish designed and made products with discounts.
As founders of Champion Green, a national movement to encourage support for local business, Kilkenny is encouraging shoppers to support local this week.
The Champion Green movement is a partnership of trade bodies and businesses aiming to support local SMEs and it is calling on consumers to ‘go green’.
Economist Jim Power has taken up an advisory role with Champion Green. He acknowledges that many Irish consumers will be tempted with online bargains, many from overseas retailers, but “it is really important for the Irish economy and Irish society that every effort is made by Irish consumers to support local retailers, through either buying online or in-person with them”.
“When I go into a local shop, I am supporting the producers of the products, employment in the shop, and the businesses and services they in turn spend their wages with, down the chain. It is estimated that every €1 spent in Irish retail generates up to €2.50 in the economy,” he said.
On the other hand, if that €1 is spent online with an overseas retailer, that money is lost to the Irish economy and does not generate any multiplier effect, Mr Power said.
Also supporting Irish design is Gifted. The Contemporary Craft and Design Fair returns to the RDS from December 1-5 – the week after Black Friday.
Before then, it is offering 20% off a wide range of products on its website giftedfromireland.com.
“It is more important than ever, after the hammering that Irish craft workers have taken over the last 19 months, to support them and help them build back up again,” said organiser, Patrick O’Sullivan.
“The Irish public have been fantastic in supporting local businesses during the various lockdowns. Since the restrictions have eased, it’s even more crucial for people not to forget their local businesses, which offer equal – and in many cases greater – value to any of the big international offers,” he said.
“There is a huge pivot behind buying local and buying Irish since Covid. Every time there is a crisis in the economy, Irish people tend to support their own.”
And it is hoped that that support will help turn Black Friday green this week.
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