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Who needs Black Friday?

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online-shoppingBlack Friday is a retail holiday, which officially opens the Christmas shopping season. It is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States of America; it has emerged as the biggest shopping day of the year for consumers and retailers.

Black Friday is an ingrained part of the United States shopping culture, where retailers provide their customers with deep cuts in price, bargain deals, as well as ridiculously low prices on certain items.

The Black Friday tradition originated in the United States. Media reports from 1966 state that police officers in Philadelphia first referred to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” as a result of the traffic jams and pedestrian traffic in the city’s shopping district.

For the police and the hordes of shoppers who converged on the shopping district, the day was “bleak”, hence christened “Black Friday”. Retailers not happy with the negative implications of the name put it out there that balance sheets moved into the black on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Some stores open their doors at midnight on Thanksgiving night, while others open between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., encouraging shoppers to camp outside their doors creating the Black Friday camping.

The Internet also plays a very critical role as retailers advertise their products price status online, creating a buzz and enabling consumers plan their shopping on Black Friday.

Online shopping websites have also provided an alternative for those wary of the hustle and bustle of the crowds, as a number of sites offer great bargain deals which are advertised on their sites, thereby making it easy for price comparisons.

Black Friday is the biggest shopping day each year in the United States except in 2004. According to market research firm,

Shoppertrak, almost 138 million Americans are expected to pass through the checkout of various stores, with heavily discounted products, spending upwards of $50 billion according to survey by the National Retail Federation (NRF).

Black Friday is considered by some as “a one-day economic stimulus plan and job creation programme “crucial to the American economy.

Black Friday has also berthed in the British stores. An American e-commerce giant, Amazon, claims it introduced Black Friday to Britain in 2010, but it only actually caught on in 2013 when ASDA, a supermarket chain owned by Wal-Mart, an American retailer, opened its doors to the concept and other British stores joined in. For consumers the benefits are enormous, as prices of thousands of products are heavily discounted, that is, clothes, electronics, computers, household goods, furniture, sporting goods, cars and office equipment.

For retailers, the volume of sales recorded on their particular day is a huge boost and marks the beginning of the spending spree as, consumers let loose on their purses and credit cards.
Nigerians, being the big shoppers that we are, I am sure, would appreciate it if this practice makes its debut on our shores.

Travel through Dubai International Airport or any other major aviation hub around the world, most black passengers you see in the airport laden with carry-ons, backpacks, two or three duty free shopping bags, are more likely than not to be Nigerians.

Airline staff have a Herculean task getting all our excess hand luggage stowed away in the overhead bins. In simple language, Nigerians love to shop, what with our extended families, co-workers and friends. And a need to get something for everyone!

A huge number of Nigerian retailers travel abroad just before the Black Friday sales to do their shopping for the Christmas season. This amounts to massive foreign exchange flight.
If these international brands are encouraged to invest in the country by opening their store here, this would definitely reduce this capital flight and Nigerians would enjoy these deep discounts on Black Friday.

In the United States retailers have an association called the National Retail Federation (NRF) comprising thousands of retailers advancing the interests of the retail industry through, communications and education.

The Nigerian version can be said to be the Chambers of Commerce spread around the country. There is a need for them to collaborate with other industry stakeholders such as the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria. Better still, retailers need to set up a similar organisation like the (NRF). The association will set aside a day or days in the year, when prices can be slashed and they give something back to the millions of Nigerian customers who patronise them all year long.

Retailers drive the nation’s economy by creating jobs and empowering the communities where they operate. They are a key barometer of the economy.

The recent interest expressed by Wal-Mart to open a store in Lagos is long overdue and the Lagos State Government should do all in its power to make this dream a reality. It should also look at the experience of other countries where Wal-Mart currently operates to ensure that it puts in place a cast iron local content policy before signing the dotted lines with it.

I am sure that if Wal-Mart berths in Lagos. Black Friday would have arrived on our shores for real. This would ultimately be a win-win situation for businesses and consumers.
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