Bespoken Word: Black Friday

Pro Bike Tool
(Image credit: Pro Bike Tool)

Black Friday has become a massive deal in recent years and on Bike Perfect we see a crazy amount of traffic around the Thanksgiving weekend. But how should you make the most of it or do we need to think about whether this bargain hunting frenzy is good for the long-term health of our local bike shops?

To be honest I hadn’t even heard of Black Friday a few years ago. Apparently, it’s been a thing in Philadelphia since the 1950s when the local police coined the name after trying to control a particularly busy shopping day just after the Thanksgiving holiday. It really started gaining momentum in the 1980s when the name was used to describe how shops were dropping prices to boost sales and take their accounts from the red (in debt) into the black (profitable). Then viral videos of people besieging shops and busting down doors in search of cheap TVs introduced this commercial craziness to the rest of the world and now the last part of November is cost-cutting carnage everywhere. 

Discounts galore

And for some shops, it really is a fantastic opportunity to shift a whole ton of surplus stock and turn the usual pre-Christmas slump into the busiest time of the year. They’re the ones who’ve been flooding my inbox with offers and swarming my feed on social media with headline price cuts begging me to buy now. The temptation to save some serious cash is hard to resist too, especially with everything - including bikes and kit - spiraling up in price recently.   

And - cards on the table - it’s a really good time for us as you make maximum use of our team of experts. That’s why the guides and listings we create covering the Black Friday mountain bike deals, not just now but general deals pages all year round, are some of the most popular features on the site. And personally, I like to think that’s because, unlike a lot of sites, they’re based on the testing we do and the reviews we write. That way you can be sure you’re only spending money on the stuff worth buying, not the gear that’s being flogged off cheap because it's not worth having even at half price. 

But maybe making sure you don’t get sucked into wasting money by buying rubbish or being seduced into isn’t the only thing to be thinking about. Maybe we need to talk about the full price of Black Friday in the broader context. Like we say some shops, generally the bigger ones who have the buying power to pull in more stock or can get better margins from suppliers in the first place, love the feeding frenzy. Not only does it boost cash flow on genuine bargains but it also helps them shift slow-moving stock. If they’re being sneaky with pricing in the run into the sales then the savings you’re getting might actually not be as good as they might look at first sight. Also once people are on their sites and making savings they’ll often be tempted to invest some of those savings getting other kit that isn’t at such a discount. Especially if adding to the basket unlocks other incentive bonuses like free delivery or an ‘extra percentage off if you spend over a certain amount’ offer. 

Park Tool

A lot of local bike shops will down tools over Black Friday as they cant compete with big retailers, its these tools and their in-depth knowledge that ultimately makes them so valuable (Image credit: Park Tool)

The cost of Black Friday

There’s no doubt other shops don’t want to get sucked into throwing away vital profit margins but feel pressured to compete and join in with the discounting or face a total sales drought. Some just accept that they can’t compete, take the day off to go riding and hope they’re still in business when they can charge enough to make a profit again. And obviously, that’s their decision but if you look at who those shops and brands are, then they tend to be the smaller, local outfits who can’t pile up their shelves before November and don’t do enough business to get the best prices from suppliers. They’re also the ones who will be last on the list from suppliers when supplies are scarce like they are now. They probably don’t have the cash reserves to suck up lost profit or cope with customers deserting them in search of a discount. And while there’s some money to be had from fitting new kit you’ve bought elsewhere or making your unwise purchases work properly it’s not ideal.

And that’s where we need to start thinking about the real long-term effects of always looking for short-term savings. While it’s been a good time for bike shops recently, we’re already starting to see things slow down slightly and if everyone jumps on the Black Friday bandwagon more and more of these local shops are going to suffer. The local shops who can help us with a last-minute ride-saving fix or the experience to sort an issue, by having the vital tool that’s too expensive for you to buy or the knowledge to point you towards the bike or kit that’ll suit you best. The local shops that’ll appreciate your trade and look after you in return, whether that’s as a hub for riding groups, supporting neighborhood biking initiatives or just fitting that thing you bought from them for free. Which incidentally might end up being cheaper and a lot less problem-prone than getting the wrong thing off the internet and being charged for several hours sorting it out.

Or to put it another way, while distant shops with the biggest discount will always be part of the shopping landscape if we choose them all the time it’s really going to be a Black Friday if there’s no local bike shop that can sort your bike out or sell you what you need if you have a problem before your weekend ride.

Guy Kesteven

Guy Kesteven has been working on Bike Perfect since its launch in 2019. He started writing and testing for bike mags in 1996. Since then he’s written several million words about several thousand test bikes and a ridiculous amount of riding gear. He’s also penned a handful of bike-related books and he reviews MTBs over on YouTube.

Current rides: Cervelo ZFS-5, Specialized Chisel, custom Nicolai enduro tandem, Landescape/Swallow custom gravel tandem

Height: 180cm

Weight: 69kg