Black Friday, Singapore-style, for some in Orchard Rd

A Black Friday sale by retailers along Singapore's popular shopping street will not officially happen this year after all.

The Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) has shelved plans for the event, following concerns by retailers that Black Friday has turned into a mostly e-commerce festival.

Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, with the latter falling on the fourth Thursday of November.

Orba executive director Steven Goh said physical retailers cannot compete with online stores on prices. Online retailers have lower operating costs, he said.

This, however, has not stopped brick-and mortar stores like Courts, Robinsons and Sephora along Orchard Road from joining the Black Friday drive to attract shoppers.

Some of them also have an online presence and have also had good experiences with such sales before.

Mr Goh said one reason that the official event was cancelled by his association was that a Black Friday sale would clash with Christmas promotions.

"As a precinct, we want people to dine, eat and shop here. Events like Black Friday and Singles' Day go against our principle," he said. Singles' Day, which falls on Nov 11, is a shopping festival led by Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Christmas promotions from now until Jan 2 in Orchard Road include shopping voucher redemptions for spending at participating malls using MasterCard credit cards.

Singapore Polytechnic marketing and retail lecturer Amos Tan said there is a mismatch between Orchard Road's image as a premium shopping belt and Black Friday's image as a largely online sale of electronics and mass-market fashion brands.

"Firstly, premium brands are unwilling to give that kind of steep discounts. And with the high overheads here, brick-and-mortar stores cannot afford to," he said.

While some brick-and-mortar stores appeared to be falling in line with this type of reasoning,not every retailer along the stretch is backing out of a Black Friday sale.

Thanks to the good response they received in previous years, department store Robinsons and furniture retailer Courts are going ahead with their own Black Friday promotions.

Both stores have an online and brick-and-mortar presence.

Robinsons, for example, drew five times more customers than usual during its three-day sale last year.

Beauty store Sephora as well as fashion brands Topshop and Dorothy Perkins are also holding Black Friday sales.

Meanwhile, e-commerce retailers in Singapore are leveraging on the year-end festivities.

For example, Lazada, Qoo10 and Zalora are holding Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, with Zalora holding a fourth sale on Dec 12.

Cyber Monday is the Monday after Thanksgiving, when online sales are expected to peak.

Singles' Day is popular with shoppers on these retail sites too. Within the first hour of the sale on Nov 11, Lazada's sales volume rose by more than 30 times compared with the same time the previous day.

Qoo10 had its highest single-day transaction of $3.2 million on Singles' Day.

Shoppers are increasingly browsing and making purchases on their mobile phones, e-retailers noted.

Mr Tito Costa, Zalora's chief marketing officer, said the recent spike in mobile penetration is increasingly generating a huge number of "thumb-shoppers".

This article was first published on Nov 24, 2016.
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