'Narrow neck' of Black Friday 2020

What retailers are willing to do to attract customers to Сovid-19 Black Friday

'Narrow neck' of Black Friday 2020
Photo: Lutsya Kashapova

At the very moment when the pandemic is breaking incidence records, retail chains are preparing for the worldwide sales promotion — Black Friday. On the days of high demand for goods, prices on average fall by half, and sales, especially on online sites, soar up to 10 times. How stores are going to protect customers from the virus, and market places — from unfair discounts, Realnoe Vremya found out from retail representatives.

Dispersing crowds 10 times

This year, the Black Friday sales campaign has reached a fully conscious age in Russia — 7 years — and is gaining momentum. It is held worldwide on the last Friday of November. American Black Friday has been known since 1966, and the custom of starting new year's sales from this moment originated in the United States in the 19th century. As a rule, stores open earlier than usual on this day — at four in the morning or even at midnight, and hunters for goods need to spend a lot of time standing in queues to get things at a decent discount.

This year, however, it turns out that retail chains are beginning to attract crowds at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the republic has restrictions on businesses during night hours, Rospotrebnadzor is not able to cancel the action itself, and stores will still attract increased attention of Tatarstan residents at the end of November. How is it possible to combine the struggle for customers and restrictions for them?

“There is the technical task — to pass a significant number of people through a 'narrow neck'," confirmed Chairperson of the Committee of Trade and Services of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Republic of Tatarstan Farida Galeeva in the interview with Realnoe Vremya.

“In the summer, we have already encountered a similar condition in large shopping complexes. They made several entrances. To do this, you do not need to re-plan anything — you just need to open the emergency and service entrances. Thus, the flow of people to each floor came through a separate door, and this allowed to disperse the mass of customers 10 times. Marketers are likely to let people from the street to the premises in groups. Those who are waiting for their turn on the street are in the conditions where viruses are exposed to the temperature effects of frost. I assume that stores, in addition to the traditional security measures (sanitary treatment, masks), will use another way to protect people — they will extend sales for several days," she concluded.

“There are noticeably fewer visits without making a purchase”

The representatives of retailers, most of which plan to announce discounts of up to 50% on Black Friday, told Realnoe Vremya how they are going to protect customers during the promotion days. The sales terms of Mega hypermarket stores may differ slightly, but the peak is expected here, of course, from November 27 to 29.

“We understand that people are now concerned about the safety of staying in public places and will seek to spend less time in shopping centres. There are noticeably fewer visits without making a purchase — visitors try to use the time spent in the shopping centre to the maximum advantage," Farida Khaliullina, the head of the department for working with visitors and improving the shopping experience of Mega shopping centre, told us.

“We understand that people are now concerned about the safety of staying in public places and will strive to spend less time in shopping centres," says Farida Khaliullina, the head of the department for working with visitors and improving the shopping experience of Mega shopping centre. Photo: vk.com/mega_kazan

According to her, in accordance with the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Tatarstan, the shopping centre controls the number of visitors who can be in it at the same time.

Last year, the sale in the Auchan retail chain took place offline within one day and in the online store — within a week.

“This year we have decided to extend the promotion for two weeks, from November 19 to December 2. Our only requirement is to comply with all sanitary rules on the territory of hypermarkets in accordance with the decree of the government and Rospotrebnadzor. We encourage all customers to use PPE and take care of each other's health," the Auchan Retail Russia press service responded to our publication.

Retail chains, of course, are pinning their hopes on revenue growth during the promotion days, but, according to them, “not everything is measured in money”.

Last year, the sale in the Auchan retail chain took place offline within one day and in the online store — within a week. Photo: kazan.rasprodaga.ru

Delivery as a precautionary measure

The safest way to buy is, of course, to order delivery of the product. The representatives of M.Video and Eldorado shared with us the results of the first November promotion of this year (at this time, as a rule, sales are held on online platforms, the promotion is tied to world shopping day on November 11 or Bachelor's Day), calling it the first stage of Black Friday. They reported that stores at that time had discounts of up to 50-60%. At the same time, the volume of online orders in the Volga regions in the first half of November increased by an average of two times compared to last year.

“Online retailing is an objective trend of the time, it is a technical progress. Not only goods go online, but also services, education, leisure, and medicine. Another thing is the constant cost of promotion in networks and advertising. But due to online retailing, it seems, these expenses can be covered," said Farid Galeev.

She also answered the question that is quite natural in the age of development of online platforms: why open new retail spaces, will they not be idle?

“As far as I remember, the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Tatarstan conducted research on retail space per unit of population in European cities and in Kazan. It turned out that we have fewer modern equipped retail spaces than in the West. This means that since the population still consumes, there are reserves for expanding offline stores," says the chairperson of the trade and services committee.

However, the trend of falling consumer demand due to a decrease in real incomes of the population may still affect the demand for these areas. In Europe, in this case, municipalities will re-profile them for various social needs, our interlocutor noted.

At the same time, the volume of online orders in the Volga regions in the first half of November increased by an average of two times compared to last year. Photo: Lutsia Kashapova

Online shoppers can't be fooled by discounts

In any case, the decline in income of the population will not affect online retaling in the coming years, its representatives are sure.

“There is no crisis in e-commerce, everything is only growing here. The epidemic has only accelerated this growth. If earlier this market increased by 35-40 per cent a year, this year, thanks to self-isolation, it has risen by 60-70 per cent," said Linar Khusnullin, the founder of KazanExpress.

Market places have actively picked up the tradition of sales and are not limited to the last November weekend.

“Now it's at least a week. Some start right from November 11, and some start before that, in fact, extending the campaign for the whole of November. The festival of discounts can smoothly turn into New Year's promotions in December," PR Director at Yandex.Market Polina Upitis told us.

Week-long Black Friday has become a standard period for online retailers, for example, for KazanExpress.

“And when Black Friday is extended for the whole November, it turns out a pseudo-promotion campaign, marketing ploy. This is how stores attract customers. And if they first raise prices and then lower them, they only cause consumer dissatisfaction — the meaning of the discount is lost. The modern public is savvy, notices this. Now you can only work with an honest approach," emphasises Khusnullin.

“On Yandex.Market, one can view the price dynamics for any product over the past six months and understand whether the price was inflated on the eve of the sale. If we see that over the past 90 days the price has been rising and then falling, then we do not put the “fair discount” icon," Upitis confirms the words of his colleague.

The specialists of Yandex.Market expects that the number of online shoppers will increase on this Black Friday, not only because the audience of the e-commerce market has grown significantly, but also because this promotion is becoming more popular among Russians.

Investing in sports and comfort

Last year, during the sale on market places, Russians most often ordered TVs, smart speakers, and wireless headphones. Household goods, such as sets of knives and pans, were also popular. There was also a growing interest in beauty products: eye patches, hair filler masks, and face serums.

Last year, during the sale on market places, Russians most often ordered TVs, smart speakers, and wireless headphones. Photo: pixabay.com

The most popular categories for sales in M.Video and Eldorado this year include smartphones and gadgets, kitchen appliances and large home appliances. Customers began to invest more in “home comfort” and purchase products that help solve everyday household tasks, the retailer's specialists noted. According to their data, the demand for refrigerators, washing machines and most built-in appliances on average has increased by 45-50% compared to last year (in units). Smartphones showed a similar dynamics. Tablets have more than doubled, vacuum cleaners and TVs — by about 30%.

By Yekaterina Ablaeva
Tatarstan