Black Friday in store for Orchard Road?

Plans for large-scale sale next year; experts say it will succeed if discounts are steep

Shoppers at Robinsons The Heeren during its Black Friday sale on Nov 28, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

Singapore may get its own version of Black Friday, with the Orchard Road Business Association (Orba) mulling over plans to launch one for retailers on the popular shopping street next year.

The plans will be finalised in about four months.

Orba, a loose affiliation of business owners which includes big names such as property and lifestyle company WingTai, will market the event and get members on board to offer deep discounts.

Orba executive director Steven Goh said: "I think there is a pressure point - competition from people doing their Christmas shopping on overseas e-commerce sites on Black Friday. We plan to organise our own Orchard Road version to get more retailers on board, and we can run marketing efforts for it."

The move follows an increase in local retailers participating in Black Friday, or the day after Thanksgiving in the United States, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November. It is an occasion for retailers to have sales, and department store Robinsons and furniture retailer Courts have latched on to it again this year, following strong sales during the event last year.

Orba's records show that about 15 per cent of its 125 corporate members - managing 400 brands between them - participated this year, up from just a handful of members last year.

Business was swift. At Courts, which hawked discounts of up to 90 per cent, in-store sales doubled compared with a typical Friday while sales on its online store - which saw a record number of visitors - increased fivefold.

Robinsons, which held a three-day sale, attracted five times more customers than usual. Sales were 30 per cent higher than last year's Black Friday sales.

Offering Black Friday promotions for the first time, bookstore chain Kinokuniya offered a 10 per cent storewide discount from Black Friday to the following Monday. Its sales increased by 20 per cent compared to a typical weekend.

Black Friday was coined to describe the chaos caused by shoppers as they take advantage of the first holiday sales.

Last year, sales in the US during the four-day Black Friday shopping spree amounted to US$50.9 billion (S$71 billion).

Retail experts think that such a promotion may work in Singapore. Mr Fabio Vacirca, senior managing director of products at Accenture, which offers retail consulting services, said: "The short answer is 'yes it will work', we have evidence that the more special sales days you have, the more you sell."

He added, however, that the root of Black Friday's success in the US is retailers offering steep discounts for just one day, creating a rush.

"In Singapore, you need to make it special too. If it becomes just another day of average sales, it will not attract people," he said.

Singapore Polytechnic senior retail lecturer Amos Tan said the retail scene could do with a fresh idea such as this.

"It's also good that Orba wants to coordinate this because it will mean a large number of retailers joining," he added.

Ms Helen Khoo, executive director of WingTai Asia, which manages brands such as Topshop and Karen Millen, said the group did not participate in Black Friday this year, but would consider doing so next year if there is a "concerted effort".

"It can really work if everyone is on board and there are events to draw people into malls," she said.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 05, 2015, with the headline Black Friday in store for Orchard Road?. Subscribe