Black Friday sales are an American tradition which have become increasingly popular in Australia over the past decade. The event begins on the fourth Friday in November and runs through the weekend to finish with Cyber Monday, a day focused on online sales.
Historically, Australian merchants have been reluctant to participate in the US tradition, but with increasing competition from international retailers, local businesses have felt compelled to get on board.
It’s gone mad. It’s a new phenomenon.
Harvey Norman founder Gerry Harvey
This includes retailing powerhouse Harvey Norman, which engaged in an advertising blitz ahead of the weekend, resulting in bumper sales.
“[Sales] went through the roof,” co-founder and chairman Gerry Harvey told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. “Friday was good, Saturday was better, and Sunday was sensational.”
“It’s gone mad. It’s a new phenomenon.”
Amazon Australia said last Friday was the largest shopping day the retailer had seen since launching in Australia in late 2017, with gaming products and smart home devices the most popular.
National Australia Bank predicted $2.9 billion would be spent by consumers over the weekend, and while it’s too early to confirm the figures, head of the Australian Retailers Association Russell Zimmerman said he believed the weekend had been a great success.
“There’s definitely more excitement around it this year, the public was more aware of it, and many more retailers were engaged,” said Mr Zimmerman. “Retailers I’ve been speaking to said customers were opening their wallets.”
The greater engagement was largely due to greater participation from Australia’s small businesses, Mr Zimmerman claims, with Black Friday now a “far more important” date on the calendar than it ever has been.
Small business owners Zane and Omar Sabre agree, with 2019 marking the second time their luxury leather goods business Maison de Sabre had participated in Black Friday.
“We broke last year’s record within an hour of the sale going live,” Zane said. “For our Australian market alone we saw a 300 per cent increase in revenue, and combined with our international markets it was a 700 per cent increase.”
The company, which pulls in over $10 million in revenue a year, recorded $800,000 in sales over the 24-hour Black Friday period at their US online store alone, but the two were pleasantly surprised by Australia’s appetite for deals.
“Australia was incredibly surprising in the way it performed this year, there was a lot more awareness of the sale, what retailers are offering and how to take advantage of it,” they said.
Christmas comes early
Many had been bracing themselves for a bleak Christmas period with Deloitte’s annual pre-Christmas survey of retailers showing nearly 40 per cent were expecting sales to either decline or stay flat.
Mr Harvey noted that while he was still optimistic about Christmas, the November sales would definitely take a shine off the key end-of-year trading period.
“A lot of shoppers bought stuff they would have usually bought three weeks from now, so it has to bring forward sales,” he said.
But for the Maison de Sabre founders, it’s all uphill from here, with sales not dropping off until after New Year’s Day.
“A lot of brands get worried about Black Friday cannibalising sales into December, but from our data we’ve seen that doesn’t really have much of an effect,” Omar said.
Dominic Powell writes about the retail industry for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.