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Photo credit: (Flickr/Lars Plougmann)

With £3 billion up for grabs, it’s understandable why retailers and other businesses want to jump on the Black Friday shopping craze. This year, Black Friday is on Friday 25 November. However, there are PR hazards if previous years are anything to go by. 

Fights Remember the punch-ups in Asda supermarkets offering cut-price deals on big ticket items a couple of years ago? Asda is one of the retailers not taking part in the promotion this year.

Then last year, there was an eeriness to Black Friday with stores empty of customers. Instead, they preferred to shop online from the comfort of their sofas. However, the TV pictures were full of shops with no customers. It’s a hard balance between chaos in your store and nobody being there if you want to project the right PR. 

Dealing with the delivery tsunami Next, consider some of the practical arrangements that now involve Black Friday and the close-by Cyber Monday shopping frenzy. Basically, there are now a lot of parcels being sent through the post thanks to the switch to internet shopping. In fact, one report described it as an “e-retail delivery tsunami” last year. Companies have to be ready with systems in place to handle the potential spike. 

When there’s such pressure on the system, things can and do go wrong – leaving customers fed-up with unexpected delays venting their anger on social media, which in turn can be picked up by journalists and generate negative headlines.  

So, it makes sense to have your PR team closely involved in the planning and execution of Black Friday to consider key messages and responses if there are problems. Ensuring your customer service teams are in place and on top of complaints to mitigate any potential issues is a good idea.

Returns Another issue is the volume of returns of items purchased which might seem like a logistical issue, but can easily spill over into PR.  Some £600m worth of products bought over Black Friday and Cyber Monday were later caught up in the returns system, according to a recent report in the FT. 

As well as handling and process costs for businesses, not handling returns in an efficient and customer-friendly response can take you down a negative social media path and one-star reviews, or less even. 

What’s different this year? Many retailers have decided to spread their Black Friday across multiple days rather than focus on just one Friday. 

Where does the name Black Friday come from? It might be a relatively recent phenomenon in the UK, but the Black Friday shopping craze that originated in the US is thought to stretch back more than 50 years  

The term began to be used in relation to shopping back in the early 1960s by police in Philadelphia, in the US, who had to deal with heavy crowds and traffic jams the day after the American holiday of Thanksgiving – which is recognised as the start of the festival shopping period in the US.