Beat Black Friday? 'We'll just ignore it' say UK indies

It's the US shopping phenomenon that's on track to top £1bn in sales in the UK, but the country's independent toy retailers look set to continue to hold their nerve through this month's discount frenzy.
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Despite it being on track to yield over £1billion this year, UK independent toy retailers maintain that the best way to succeed this Black Friday is to simply ignore it.

Billed by many as the most chaotic 24 hours on the British shopping calendar, Black Friday is the one day sales event on which retailers offer substantial discounts across various products, including toys.

An export of American shopping culture that traditionally falls on the first Friday after Thanksgiving, recent years have seen the November sales sensation pick up steam within the UK. When Black Friday lands on UK shores this November 27th, the event is tipped to surpass the £1bn mark.

However, one group who won’t be participating in the mania is the UK’s indie toy retailers.

“When it comes to Black Friday, it just seems like herd mentality to me,” explained Paul Warner, owner of the Wellingborough-based traditional toy retailer When I Was A Kid.

“You have all these sheep following suit for really very little reward, and I just don’t feel the need to compete.”

With two stores to the When I Was A Kid name and a vast online offering, Warner suggests that while the majors are kept busy engaging in the annual price slashing, it is the independent that can reap the benefit.

“As long as you hold your nerve, ride out the madness and don’t cave to the pressure, you can enjoy the rest of the year,” he told ToyNews.

“Black Friday is one day of trading. Our gross profit margins are 51 per cent for the Wellingborough store and 52 per cent for the Cambridge store. It proves that if you stick to your niche, understand what you are delivering and continue to deliver that throughout the sales madness, you can come out the over side.”

While the larger chain stores work on cementing their strategies for this year’s sales showdown, the indies maintain that to them, there simply isn’t an alternative to riding out the storm.

“Black Friday is an odd thing, it’s all about the chain stores trying to make sure they are part of the game,” said Peter Allinson, owner of growing indie toy store, Whirligig.

“But while the big retailers are going out and being competitive with each other, the independents thrive with the unusual products that consumers really want.

“In the toy world, Christmas is key and the fact that events like Black Friday get people in spending mode and generates the idea of spending is all positive, however for us, it’s about being consistently good all year round.”

Of course not all independents are adverse to the Black Friday sales bonanza and the UK’s family run The Entertainer has been vocal in its efforts to build upon the success of 2014’s big day.

Citing Black Friday as “the cheapest initiative we have ever had,” Gary Grand, MD and founder of The Entertainer has made no secret that the firm had already ordered the stock ready to be pushed this year back in March.

And with powerhouses such as The Entertainer, who maintains that the ‘Black Friday customers received exactly the same level of customer service’ as they would on any other day, it’s no wonder that the event casts an ominous shadow over some.

“Black Friday was a worry last year as it was the first time it really seemed to take off,” said Faye Bobillier, owner of Toy Shed Worcester Park.

“This year, I am going to just hold my nerve once again, ride it out and wait for the Christmas sales to roll in. “As long as you do that, you eventually see profit.”

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