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As the US gears up to join family and friends and gather round tables around the country to celebrate another Thanksgiving, across the pond in the UK, this most American of holidays is beginning to gain traction. Over the past few years, major supermarket chains such as Tesco, Asda and Waitrose have begun to introduce Thanksgiving displays within their stores in London and around US military bases to cater for the approximately 200,000* Americans living in the UK, and are now extending availability of Thanksgiving-related products throughout the country.
So what’s driving this trend? One theory, according to this report in the Guardian, is that it goes hand in hand with a huge surge in an interest in US food, with the US ‘barbecue food market’ now worth an estimated $100 million in the UK. But another reason could be the introduction of Black Friday to the UK – a concept which makes much more sense when tied to the celebration of Thanksgiving (in the UK, the 26th December – known as Boxing Day – has long been a bonanza day for sales so the idea of ‘celebrating and splurging’ is a familiar one).
Even as a standalone concept, the numbers show that Black Friday is beginning to capture the imaginations of retailers and consumers alike, boosted by the presence of American-owned companies such as Amazon, and Walmart-owned Asda. In 2014, consumer spending was up 21% versus the previous year’s Black Friday, with online spending up a massive 41% – equating to UKGBP810 million (over $1.2 billion) – the biggest ever day for UK online sales.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t all good news for this record-beating Black Friday as some shoppers chased the bargains a little too enthusiastically, with fights breaking out and police called to several grocery stores. In an effort to try and avoid a repeat of the chaotic scenes witnessed last year – and with the realization that the spike in sales over a short period didn’t translate to stronger sales overall – some retail giants such as department store John Lewis and Asda (one of the original key proponents of Black Friday in the UK) are drastically scaling back their Black Friday promotions. In place will be prolonged customer-centric promotions that keep consumers engaged – and returning – throughout the holiday season.
And the US, where of course many of the bargains are available on Thanksgiving day, some retailers are bucking the trend – and making a deft marketing move by announcing they will be closed on Thanksgiving day (although ‘open’ online). You may have seen the joint Marshalls, TJ Maxx and Homegoods TV advert, asking people to ‘gather round a table, not a store’s parking lot’ which – while surely a welcome move for their store staff – also helps reinforce their brand values as warm and family-centric. Outdoor company REI, has gone one step further, and will be closed on Black Friday – and will give all 12,000 employees the day as paid vacation. This leftfield move has not only allowed them to create a powerful marketing campaign around it (supported by the hashtage #optoutside), it’s also garnered them reams of positive media coverage – which of course has its own quantifiable dollar value.
However you’re spending Thanksgiving, we at ARTEMIA wish you a happy and safe one. Happy Thanksgiving!
*source: UK Census Data
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