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Black or Red Friday?

Black or Red Friday?

In just four weeks and two days from today, we will have Christmas Day—December 25, 2023! And with Christmas approaching, the ceremonial bells are ringing!

The loudest is from the retail shops. If you look around, or if you have followed the behaviour of most retail shops in the run-up to Christmas over the years, you would have noticed that it is around this time of the year that you hear of promotional deals.

Buy-one-get-one-free, half-price deals, buy-now-pay–later, are some of the marketing gimmicks that you are likely to come across.

The reason for this sort of aggressive marketing or promotional deals around this time of the year is very simple.

 It is around this time of the year that early Christmas shoppers hit the high street stores looking for bargains.

Of course, bargain-hunting, in this digital age, will not be limited to only in-store shopping since there is every chance that online outlets will equally be available for shoppers.

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In effect, there is no gain saying that consumers tend to spend more during Christmas, and other notable festive seasons, because these are periods that people tend to exchange gifts and show appreciation to loved ones.

This is reflected in national import bills, as well as household expenditure. On record, the last quarter of every year is the time that high street sales go up because of increased individual and household spending.

Following the mood, retailers try to cash in. To attract the attention, interest and desire of shoppers, and to actually get them to take action by patronising them, businesses use various advertising channels to promote their goods and services.

 “Black Friday” is one such marketing line that is used. Have you heard of it before? Well, traditionally, Black Friday is used to refer to the Friday after Thanksgiving [an annual national holiday in the United States (US) that celebrates the blessings of the past year] and marks the start of the Christmas shopping season there.

 Thanksgiving Day is always the fourth Thursday in November.

Black Friday, since the 1980s, has been marked as one of the busiest shopping days of the year in the US as stores offer highly promoted sales at discounted prices.

Like globalisation, Black Friday is now a phenomenon adopted in most countries too. Interestingly, in places outside the US where it is used to describe the promotion of bargains, it doesn’t necessarily need to follow any marked celebration, like Thanksgiving Day in the US—it is straight sales, perhaps depending on the mood of the retailer involved.

Before l go further into some of the real gimmicks around Black Friday, let me, at this point, add that Canada also observes Thanksgiving but on different dates to that of the US, with Black Friday too.

Okay. Now let’s get into the real concerns about Black Friday. First, I will deal with a report from the United Kingdom (UK) released this week that seeks to cast doubt over the touted “giveaways” on Black Friday and conclude why you shouldn’t fall for all the promotional stuff.

According to a UK consumer group, Black Friday may not be the cheapest time to shop. According to an analysis of last year’s event by which? Just one in 50 deals were at their cheapest price level on the day of the sales.

In fact, I was attracted to this report particularly because it was detailed and offered insightful and extensive advice on why customers must always be wary of Black Friday deals. I have fallen for it several times over. Overall, 208 deals last year were analysed, including retailers such as Amazon, Argos and Currys.

A retail editor, Eli Clark,  commenting on the report said that customers should not feel “pressured to splash out on Black Friday as it’s rarely the cheapest time to shop,” and that while there are “bargains to be had” consumers need to do further research before making any big purchase on that discount day.

So you may not be in the black after Black Friday after all!

To my next point—avoiding overspending during this festive season. In my book, Dealing with the Little Leaks that Keep You Poor, I devoted a chapter to explain why spending is a recipe for disaster.

In relation to Black Friday, this is a chapter that explains why your Black Friday could become Red Friday as soon as the festive cheer is over and the reality of paying for the unplanned bills sets in.

Remember that the festive period is not the period to spend, be merry and to think about the problems afterwards.

No. Rather, it should be a period of reflection, to think through your life carefully to see whether indeed you deserved to give yourself a gift or not, following the path you had travelled from the beginning of the year.

I explained this point in much detail in the Saturday, December 25, 2021 edition of this column.

Always note that your bank account today is only a reflection of the past decisions that you made. The payoff, good or bad, is only a manifestation of how bright or otherwise, those decisions were.

 So it means that if you resolve to make better decisions in the coming year, you will have more money to spend during the 2024 Christmas period. Therefore, don’t squeeze yourself to be in the red after this year’s Christmas.

Understand also that Christmas, and for that matter festive periods, should not provide you with the cover to go into overdrive with your spending. Because of the increased spending in December, especially as there is always some financial anxiety in January; something is always needed to assuage the pain of the excess spending of the previous month. Be in the black and not in red this December.

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