Michelle Ovens CBE is the founder and director of Small Business Saturday, a campaign launched to encourage consumers to shop locally. This year, it takes place on 2 December.
It has been a tough year for shoppers and retailers, that is for sure. The cost-of-living crisis may have slipped off the headlines, but it has by no means gone away.
Tepid spending over the last few months means businesses are hoping that shoppers are saving their spend for the festive season, and fingers are tightly crossed for a good winter sales boost.
But I am here to say, Black Friday is not the answer to that – for businesses or for customers. Let’s start with the customers first.
Michelle Ovens CBE is the founder of Small Business Saturday
Many people have held off spending due to tightening budgets – higher mortgage costs, energy bills, food costs and more.
There may be the odd thing they really need that they are keeping an eye on in case the price is cut in the Black Friday sales.
But buyers beware: it is all too easy to get sucked into that sales bonanza and spend more than you plan to.
Deals are only deals if you were planning on buying it anyway.
And recent years have shown time and time again that there are relatively few ‘real deals’ available on this bumper day that are not available year-round.
This year the concept of Black Friday seems to be particularly dragged out to a month-long extravaganza that can create a constant pressure to ‘spend, spend, spend’.
This can cause real anxiety for shoppers who don’t want to miss out, but are feeling the pinch. It also adds to the worry that more and more of us have about our impact on the environment and ensuring we are doing our bit to be sustainable.
Overt consumerism is actually a turn off for a lot of people, particularly younger generations, so the Black Friday model increasingly doesn’t really fit or make us ‘feel good’.
So let’s now look at businesses. Remembering that 99 per cent of businesses in the UK are small businesses, the sort of deep discounting expected on Black Friday just does not work for so many of these tiny enterprises.
Small businesses have also faced the cost-of-living crisis pressures with margins squeezed on every level.
Research from American Express has found recently that the peak festive season will be crucial to the fortunes of over four fifths of small firms, and vital to sustaining their finances through the winter and quiet periods.
Discounting as well just does not create a realistic business model.
Of course small businesses need the Christmas boost – but this can’t be at the cost of their margin. Selling at a loss does not help them survive to the new year.
And we need them to survive. They are the heart and soul of communities and as well as selling products and services, they support local people, local health, local infrastructure and more.
So when you are thinking about your festive spend, keep this in mind and ask yourself, who am I spending my money with? What is my money doing?
If you want to be more conscious with your spend look instead to Small Business Saturday on 2 December.
Small businesses often offer just as much value, have shorter local supply chains so are better for the planet too, and usually offer more unique and innovative products and services.
They will be run by your family, neighbours and friends. These people are the heroes of our community, who took a risk and started a business, and kept it going, despite some of the biggest challenges of our times.
This year small businesses are desperate for your support. And if you support them, you are not only supporting someone’s dreams, but they will be there to support you – like we saw so much during the pandemic and lockdown isolation.
If you are spending less, and many of us are, make it count this Christmas and spend somewhere that gives your money more impact. Spend at a small business.
And if you spend on your Amex card at a small business on Small Business Saturday you will even get cash back as part of its Shop Small offer – a budget friendly choice for sure!
Ditch Black Friday. Save your cash for Small Business Saturday.