Consumers encouraged to stay local as Black Friday looms

With Black Friday just two weeks today, for many smaller UK high street retailers the next fortnight is make or break time as they take on the might of the online retail giants in the battle for Britons’ Christmas spending.

This year, according to, Dr Jackie Mulligan, expert on the Government’s High Streets Task Force and founder of the local shopping platform, Shopappy, it’s more important than ever that Brits avoid being sucked into the hype and shop local — or the future of the UK high street could be at risk She says: “Black Friday is the Grinch that stole Christmas for many smaller retailers. The big beasts of online shopping have used this American import as a battering ram to grab people’s attention and drive a surge in revenue long before the traditional Christmas shopping rush.

Black Friday purchases made on Amazon or other online giants are often a black eye to the small high street retailer. So this year, after the turmoil of the pandemic, we’re encouraging everyone, whenever possible, to shop local. “With online stores already accounting for 28% of every Pound spent by British shoppers, high street shops risk being frozen out once again.

After pandemic restrictions made last Christmas a brutal one for bricks and mortar stores, the next four to five weeks will be make or break time for many smaller retailers.

Irish Christmas Market

A similar situation is facing our closest neighbours in Ireland. Sarah Loughran of Loughran Signs became increasingly concerned about the challenges facing her local communities. She has seen first-hand with retailers and wholesalers the trials and tribulations business have had to face for many years now, locally in Mullingar, Co Westmeath and nationally throughout Ireland. After running the Look Is Ireland – Celtic Virtual Showcase – earlier this year, it really opened her eyes to the talent and creativity of Irish makers and creators. She says: “The important message of supporting local and shopping Irish really needs to be driven home. Irish consumers need see for themselves how important this message is”.

To this end Sarah has set up the first online Irish Christmas Market, where independent Irish retail businesses, designer-makers and manufacturers can set out their (commission-free) stall and offer shoppers who want to support local businesses an alternative to Amazon.

Almost two years of lockdowns and other major socio-economic shifts have resulted in extremely difficult trading conditions for independent retailers and
the net result is painfully clear to see: Irish retail businesses have been shutting up shop at an alarming rate, leaving our cities, towns and rural communities immeasurably poorer. Independent retailers ARE the lifeblood of local communities all around Britain, Ireland and the rest of Europe and if there is anything that can be done to bolster and support them through this challenging period, Sarah is eager to do this.

It isn’t all doom and gloom, of course, though it can seem that way when we see boarded up shops on the high street and the news in general speaks of one challenge after another. The good news is that people are still shopping and they are keener than ever to support local Irish businesses, be they independent food and gift shops or talented designer-makers from our home shores.

The other good news is that online sales, both in Ireland and across the seas in other countries, are undoubtedly rising. Whilst some see this as a potential negative for bricks and mortar stores, it doesn’t have to be: There is nothing stopping high street stores from boosting sales via the Internet if they use the right platform and have a strong enough online presence.

Sarah adds: “The convenience which puts a huge marketplace at your fingertips, from the comfort of your own home, is a huge draw and I believe this form of shopping is very much here to stay. Unlike Amazon and other huge corporate enterprises, independent online markets like the Irish Christmas Market are designed to support bricks and mortar retail and designers who need an outlet for their work but struggle to get a foothold in the massive online space”.

Dr Jackie Mulligan continues: “It’s no exaggeration to say that the future of countless small businesses, and potentially many local high streets, will depend on sales in the weeks ahead. From the daily conversations we have with thousands of small retailers around the UK, that’s how serious things have become. “But the headline-grabbing discounts being offered online are often illusory. An analysis by Which? of Black Friday deals being offered in previous years found that 95% of tech, home and personal care deals were available at the same price, or cheaper, in the six months after the big day.

“Fortunately there are signs that many shoppers are starting to see through the crude commercialism, and huge environmental cost, of this annual festive shopping event, with a recent survey showing only a third of adults plan to support it this year. “It’s great to see that more people are realising it will be better for people and the planet this year to have gifts from small local businesses under their trees rather than spending their hard-earned cash to propel billionaires into space.”

Pictured top, Irish Christmas Market retailer, Cobblestone Alley and Poppy Lockets.

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