No other day in retail is as controversial as Black Friday. Here, Mike France offers his advice to brands on getting the best out of this unique (and often crazed) shopping weekend…

Hi Mike, when did Black Friday start?

Surprisingly, it goes back as far as the 1930s. It signalled the start of the holiday shopping season in the US: the day after Thanksgiving when many retailers opened longer and promoted offers.

So it’s not an online thing, then?

No, but that’s not to underplay the central role the internet’s played in its growth, carrying it across the pond to the UK’s online sphere and, subsequently, its high streets. The emergence of Black Friday and Cyber Monday (at the other end of the weekend), has significantly distorted the buying habits of consumers as many now wait for bargains to appear.

Are you sceptical about it?

At first, perhaps, but its popularity means now virtually everyone’s involved in some form; in many markets it’s the norm. But this means fewer companies are able to stand out, and although a brand’s sales may increase as products are at a lower margin, there’s no guarantee this will equate to greater profit.

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But companies still persevere with it…

Breaking ranks is potentially dangerous to a brand – as Asda found out to its cost last year. The reality is that swimming against such a current will see you miss out on what has become the new peak. If you’re not involved it’s very difficult to recover once the ‘big spend’ has passed. The key lies in maximising profit without devaluing your brand.

And how would you do that?

A good way to reduce the pressure on the consumers is by extending the promotional period to include the days between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as we do at Christopher Ward. High-pressure selling is best left to insurance salesmen and second-hand car dealers, not luxury brands.

Anything else?

It’s important to avoid slashing and burning your prices, and focus on making the equation of price-to-volume work for you. Avoiding too dramatic a price reduction has a further benefit: customers you acquire at this time are far more likely to return as recommended-retail-price buyers later on. In this sense, BF discounts can simply be equated as a new customer acquisition cost.

So, what can we take away from this?

Black Friday’s an opportunity to draw a line under what’s often a quiet summer period, and lets brands refresh, reassess and regroup before the run-up to Christmas. Consumers will always have certain expectations about Black Friday and as a brand we know we must meet them.

Finally, will Christopher Ward be doing a Black Friday promotion this year?

It’d be rude not to! Details revealed very soon.

Student Mitch Iles was after a robust timepiece for a charity trip to Himalayas – step forward the C60 Trident Pro 600

Taking the Himalayan challenge
I needed a watch.

Not for work. Not because I wanted to impress a girlfriend or new boss. I needed a watch because I’d taken on the biggest challenge of my life. A hike to Mount Everest Base Camp in aid of Childreach International, a charity that provides essential facilities for kids in the poorest parts of the world.

As long I could raise £3,000 by the end of August I could take part. And when I did, I began to ponder on what would be the toughest challenge of my life.

So why the watch?

The first image that came to mind when I was asked if I wanted to join the Himalayan hike was Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing at the peak of Everest, wearing Rolex Explorers.

That first successful expedition was a British one, the brand that provided the first watch to Everest was founded in the UK, so I wanted a timepiece with British pedigree. This is where Christopher Ward came in.img_0364

The company showed interest in the opportunity to test one of their bestselling divers and offered me the C60 Trident Pro 600. I went for the 38mm as I felt it would be a better fit and more tactile. When I first put it on it felt absolutely perfect.

I had my watch.

Destination Nepal

The trip began with a flight from Heathrow to Nepal, and included an extended layover in Delhi and a 90-minute circle before we turned back to India to refuel. (The Nepalese had closed the runway for repair and neglected to tell our pilot). When I finally did arrive, the Trident informed me I was six hours late.

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The first task was to visit one of the schools constructed by Childreach International and help build them a new car park. This meant organising a human chain to pass boulders and bags of sand. I had the Trident on throughout and used the countdown bezel regularly to time drinking breaks.

As a team we did really well and came away knowing we’d played our part helping a fantastic cause. On the bus I analysed how the watch had held up; half-expecting massive gashes from the rocks I was heaving up the hill. I was pleasantly surprised to see it was relatively unscathed.

After doing the charity work, our next goal was to get to Mount Everest’s Base Camp. Something that’d prove difficult in every sense of the word.

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Delays and frustration

To get to Base Camp we had to fly from Kathmandu to Lukla, from where we’d hike to our destination. Not only is getting a ticket for the flight difficult – only eight pilots worldwide are qualified to do it – it needs perfect conditions, something in short supply in this, the monsoon season.

We headed to the airport at 4am to catch our 7am flight. Sadly it wasn’t to be – the clouds refused to budge, and instead we spent the whole day on the floor of the departure lounge waiting. We repeated this entertaining spectacle for the next three days, with little to divert me apart from looking at the dial of the Trident.

By the fourth day the clouds still hadn’t cleared. A backup trek to Annapurna looked on the cards, which meant we wouldn’t be able to see Everest. Confronted by our disappointed faces, we managed to convince the organisers to take us by jeep to the big hill.

To Everest and beyond
This was no ordinary car journey: we had to spend 18 hours driving through the night to get to Base Camp. We overcame burst rivers, broken-down trucks, and a general lack of grip throughout to get to the point that we could start our three-day trek to the camp itself. In hindsight it couldn’t have been more fitting as we mimicked the original path Sir Edmund Hillary had taken.

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Straight out of the jeep, and with no sleep, we began to hike, completing the first eight-hour trek on cereal bars and excitement alone. These days could be seen as the most significant test for the Trident, which was at the mercy of Nepal’s monsoon. But it simply kept going.

The longest day of solid trekking was 16 hours. Here, the watch was essential, as the higher up you go, the less appetite you have. This meant using the bezel to keep track of how much I was eating and drinking.

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Finally, we reached Everest Base Camp. It’s an incredible place, and you quickly realise how raw and intimidating the Himalayas are. As we approached, our voices were drowned out by the sound of not-so-distant avalanches – something which made me shudder. In April 2015, 19 people were killed in the area by an avalanche caused by an earthquake. Danger is never far away.

Nevertheless I couldn’t leave without taking the opportunity to scale my first Himalayan peak, Kala Patthar, which provides unbeatable views of Everest. And while it’s not even near the same scale as its giant neighbour, at 5,643m high, it’s not exactly a molehill.

Aiming for the peak
Getting to the top required another 3am start after reaching its base camp the day earlier. A hot chocolate and a coconut crunch biscuit was the nutrition of choice, before we began our ascent.

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This meant hiking in the dark for the first couple of hours: the altitude hitting us like a brick and causing a couple of our number to head back to camp. However, after a gruelling ascent, the rest of us made it to the top.

Being at the peak of Kala Patthar was the coldest I’d felt during the whole trip, yet as I looked down at my wrist, the Trident was happily beating away, telling me we needed to start the trek back towards Lukla. So much for enjoying the view!

Happily, we made it down relatively quickly in order to catch our flight home. In fact the only issues we had came from racing downhill, which saw me trip down a small bank towards the village of Namche Bazaar, scratching my Trident in the process. I was annoyed but it was a small price to pay for such an incredible experience.

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Back in Britain
I’m now home, still blown away by my Himalayan adventure..

Not only did we all have a life-changing trip, but we managed to raise over £48,000 for Childreach International. As I write this in the university library, the Christopher Ward is still on my wrist, its scratches worn like the war wounds of a battle-hardened soldier.

Every time I look at it – and I do this a lot – it brings back fantastic memories of staring at those iconic hands on the floor of Kathmandu airport, reminding me of what we’re all capable of if we choose to break out of our comfort zone.

Mitch wore the C60 Trident Pro 600. You can find out more about the watch here.

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