Click Frenzy is a good idea but Australia needs our own Black Friday

Comment by Patrick Avenell

“It’s been a frenzy” this morning for the PR company representing Click Frenzy, a new initiative to encourage online sales from a variety of retailers on Tuesday 20 November 2012.

Based on the popular Cyber Monday sales in the United States, Click Frenzy aims to treat shoppers to “amazing one-off deals from hundreds of online retailers”. Although Click Frenzy's website doesn’t list any of the participating retailers, a story in Fairfax newspapers today planted by Click Frenzy's PR firm lists Dick Smith, Myer, Target and Kogan among others.

Cyber Monday evolved out of the famous Black Friday sales in the United States. As Thanksgiving is always a Thursday in the States, and many people take it as a day of leave to create a 4-day weekend, retailers lure them into stores with one-day discounts to unofficially kickstart the Christmas shopping season.

Black Friday has been a huge success — it’s America’s biggest shopping day of the year according to some reports — and the Cyber Monday sales that occur three days later are also extremely popular.

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While one can’t begrudge Click Frenzy and its organiser Power Retail for replicating this model in Australia, what retailers really need is a Black Friday clone, not an antipodean Cyber Monday.

The new norm for retail in Australia is struggling. All the listed bricks and mortar retail chains have used adjectives like “challenging” and “tough” to describe the economy in their annual reports. Unlisted retailers report similarly difficult conditions, though it must be noted that both the Winning Group and Betta Stores Retail have been much more upbeat.

Then you have the retailers unable to survive at all. Retravision Southern and WOW Sight & Sound both collapsed during 2012, while Clive Peeters and Truscotts couldn’t even make it out of the GFC to struggle through this depressed retail environment.

Add into that mix the Federal Government’s insane enquiry into technology pricing and the unwillingness to apply the GST to imports under $1,000 and you have a furious cocktail designed to make our retail sector, which Australia relies on to provide millions of jobs, doomed to tumult.

Online retailers have a knack for unsettling the traditional players, as Ruslan Kogan has ably demonstrated with its repeated goading of Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi. But the retailers supporting Click Frenzy aren’t all pure players like Kogan — most are combination outlets (click and mortar or, as Gerry Harvey likes to call it, “omnichannel retailers”) — so while their intention to innovate to increase sales is noble, these good intentions are also paving the course to traditional retail damnation.

Click Frenzy is a good idea. In-store Frenzy would be much better.

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