In the news: Festive charge

Amid the festive spending chaos of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the FCA steps in with protection for vulnerable consumers
by Bethan Rees

Men in the US are likely to spend more money than women in this festive period, according to Lauren Thomas for CNBC. 

In a recent survey by investment management company JLL of 1,000 US consumers, around 30% of men said they plan to spend more than US$750 during November and December, compared to 25% of women. Women are planning to be more cautious, with 44% of respondents saying they have a “moderate budget” of between US$250 and US$750 for gifts. Only 36% of men in comparison said they had the same budget. 

Thomas refers to a separate survey by PwC, which finds that men are expected to spend US$164 more this festive season, and women are expected to spend US$42 less. 

Why is this? Thomas quotes Greg Maloney, CEO of JLL Retail: “Before, there was nothing to shop for, and when I started in this business it was the woman who shopped for the man. Men have a lot more choices than they did ten years ago.”

Men are spending more on themselves than they used to, writes Thomas. Jimmy Skinner, a marketing manager in North Carolina, spoke to CNBC. “The strength of the economy does mean that I am seeing some incredible products on the market, and it can be quite tempting. I have a habit of seeing doorbuster deals and making impulse purchases for myself.” 

Black Friday and Cyber Monday sees attractive offers on electronics. Marshal Cohen, chief industry advisory of the NPD Group, told CNBC that many of the heavily discounted items are “going to be self-gifted and are male-centric”. 

CNBC article

Advice to avoid Black FridayRetailers offer shoppers extreme discounts on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Black Friday started in the US and came to the UK in 2010 in response to Amazon’s “unleashing of post-Thanksgiving discounts on the British public”, writes Andrea Felsted for Bloomberg. This has been “a disaster for British retailers”, she writes. 

She includes graphs in the article, which show that UK high street and shopping centre footfall is down 4.5% and 4.7% respectively from 2017, and Black Friday online sales are set to decline from 5% in 2017 to 4% in 2018.

Felsted warns that European countries, which adopted Black Friday over the past couple of years, should “tread carefully”. She says: “There’s some justification for price deals in electronics. Sellers of big-ticket items typically do lots of business in Europe’s traditional post-Christmas sales. Black Friday simply spreads those sales between two events.

“But for sectors such as clothing, there’s little reason to participate. All stores do is mark down products that would probably have sold anyway at much higher prices. This conditions consumers to just wait for deals, and it’s very difficult for retailers to return to a full price afterwards – especially in the interim between Black Friday and the New Year sales. All of this hurts margins during what should be the most lucrative time of the year.”

Felsted highlights a danger that “British chains will panic because of weak sales recently" and advises that both the UK and continental Europe “hold their nerve and refuse to get sucked into the madness”. 

Bloomberg article 

Rent-to-own capWhile the festive period and Black Friday are times associated with spending money, the FCA has proposed a price cap on rent-to-own (RTO) firms, which is expected to save consumers up to £22.7m per year.

RTO purchases often cost the consumer more than the cost of the product. The FCA proposes that the credit charges not be more than the cost of the product, and that RTO firms benchmark their product costs against three other retailers. 

Andrew Bailey, FCA CEO, said: “[These] measures are designed to bring down very high prices in the rent-to-own sector, which is used by some of the most financially vulnerable in our society. A cap will prevent firms charging over the odds for essential everyday items like cookers or washing machines. We believe a cap is the only intervention that will effectively tackle the highest prices.”  

Just one-third of RTO customers are in work and the majority are on low incomes (between £12,000 and £18,000 per year), and are also likely to have missed a bill payment over the past six months, says the regulator.  

The price cap, if agreed, will be introduced from 1 April 2019. The consultation will be open until 17 January 2019. 

FCA press release

The FCA’s announcement of a cap for RTO firms comes at interesting time – when people are expected to spend more money than usual. Could it be that next year, when the festive period comes round again, people will have more money to spend as a result of this cap? 
Seen a blog, news story or discussion online that you think might interest CISI members? Email
Published: 23 Nov 2018
  • News
  • The Review
  • Christmas
  • Cyber Monday
  • Black Friday
  • FCA
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