What is Black Friday and Where does it Come From?
Retailers across the UK and other parts of Europe are full of discounts and promotions as Black Friday kicks into full swing online, on the high street and at out of town retail parks.
For many this marks the start of the Christmas rush for profits, a defining period which can determine the success or failure of thousands of businesses.
Amazon brought Black Friday to the UK back in 2010, but this year more and more retailers are jumping on the American tradition which is directly tied to Thanksgiving. The Friday following Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday because consumer spending hikes and represents the point where US retailers start to operate in profit for the year – going into the black.
Big supermarkets and department stores are competing with the likes of e-commerce giant Amazon, with John Lewis, Sainsbury’s, Asda, Marks & Spencer and Tesco among the household names putting on widespread discounts.
Police have already been called into shops across the country as shoppers fight to secure the best deals.
In the lead this year up to these two days, retail sales remained resilient with the pace of growth expected to accelerate once again in the crucial Christmas run up, according to the CBI’s latest quarterly Distributive Trades Survey.
Last year the high street was pummelled by atrocious weather, not helped by the ever-advancing online sector which is now bolstered by more flexible deliveries and discount deals than ever before. Parking charges are another gripe of many high-street turned sofa shoppers.
This year looks like offering more favourable conditions for healthy footfall, giving the high street a better chance of competing with the online space for Christmas custom. This, coupled with the fact that many still prefer to make high-end purchases for televisions and appliances in person rather than via a web description, could translate into a better festive period for shops on the ground.
Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday follow Black Friday, making this weekend one of the most meticulously planned of the entire year. The UK has truly embraced the American Christmas shopping tradition.
SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data
SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation.
“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.
In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”
Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.
Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”
SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”
With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.
“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”
Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.
“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”