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The independent retailers Black Friday survival guide

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The independent retailers Black Friday survival guide

Black Friday, a cultural and economic phenomenon, heartily adopted from our American cousins. This new holiday tradition is often considered the reserve of big businesses who can afford to slash their inflated margins, capitalising on the sales-induced mania that follows.

As an independent, you can't afford to become embroiled in a price war, but you do have the freedom and agility to respond creatively to key dates in the retail calendar, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Consumers are increasingly experiencing Black Friday fatigue and this can work in your favour.

To sale, or not to sale?

Should you hold a Black Friday sale? Ask yourself 3 questions;

If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘no’ then don’t be cajoled into holding a sale for the sake of it. This can be more detrimental than not acknowledging the event at all. Cashflow is the lifeblood of any business so don’t cripple yours just to join in.

The independent retailers Black Friday survival guide

A holistic view of your business performance will give you a clear idea if you can afford to reduce your margins. Epos Now’s intelligent back office reporting feature allows you to run a health-check of your business, enabling you to check data from the last minute, last month or last year. This empowers you to make a fully informed business decisions, ensuring you can commit to your plan with confidence.

Depending on what you sell, your stock may comfortably lend itself to sales of this nature, with electricals and technology traditionally dominating real and virtual shopping baskets. However, other retailers are increasingly getting involved, selling beauty products, clothing and food. A number of airlines are even discounting flights in response to Black Friday.

If you're a high-end retailer of premium goods then be wary, holding a sale can erode brand equity. If expensive items are cheaper one day and not the next it can undermine confidence in the value of these products. If a Black Friday/Cyber Monday isn’t right for your business, reserve the right to opt out.


So, you’ve looked at the numbers, assessed the demand and you’re confident a Black Friday offering is the right move. Getting people through the door is often the biggest challenge, so a sale is an invitation that can welcome first-time custom. Planning ahead is essential to pulling an event off successfully, securing those first-timers as long-term loyal customers.

Some retailers like to spread Black Friday events over a period of weeks. This prevents any manic rushing or crazed scenes of punch up’s in the electronics aisles. Why not build some interest by releasing teaser images on your social media? If you’re an omnichannel retailer, include banners, pop-up’s or a countdown timer on your website to create a sense of urgency. Don’t forget your shop window is huge advertising asset! Window displays should be bold, eye-catching and memorable.

The independent retailers Black Friday survival guide

Preparation includes checking that data again. Will you have enough stock to see you through? Bare shelves are a huge no-no and running out of stock risks disappointing the customer. It can be difficult to manage stock across different channels amidst so much activity. Epos Now’s nettl integration seamlessly connects your on and offline stores and allows your customers to click and collect giving them more freedom and flexibility. Don't forget increased footfall means more staff on the rota to meet demand and be prepared for some guilty customers to return impulse items.

Omnichannel retailers should bear in mind the additional demand on couriers at this time. Corporate retailers have specific partners, who will no doubt offer preferential treatment, or they operate their delivery in-house. Independents have no such luxury so it’s important to manage customer expectations. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver!

No sale!

Deciding not to hold a sale doesn’t have to be the end of your Black Friday involvement. Why not use the opportunity to create a memorable in-store experience? This is an opportunity to invite customers to handle your products, welcoming browsers and encouraging buying behaviours. Research by the University of Notre Dame shows the more time people spend in your shop, the more money they spend. It pays to make your customers feel welcome.

Why not hold an open day, break out the tester products, hold demonstrations or offer a service, such as makeovers or gift wrapping? Some small retailers opt to give their customers sweet treats with each purchase. Any small way of marking the occasion is enough to make a positive and memorable connection in your customer's minds.

The independent retailers Black Friday survival guide

You could even make your event invite-only to create a sense of exclusivity. People like to feel special and selecting your most loyal customers to attend a private opening will do just that. Inviting local customers to these events helps contribute to a sense of community that is beneficial for businesses. Why not look into how you could benefit from one of Epos Now’s loyalty integrations to improve customer retention all year round?


The Black Friday/Cyber Monday conundrum can only be answered by business owners who know their business best. If you can afford to shave your margins for a spike in footfall and are confident holding an event will add value to your business, get stuck in and promote it across all channels from your window display to your website.


Erin Heenan

Erin joined Epos Now in 2016 as an in-house content writer for the marketing department, making use of 10 years experience working in busy restaurants. An avid fan of shopping and eating out, she is committed to helping retail and hospitality SMEs get the most out of their businesses.

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