When you start to notice that the leaves are falling and there are mince pies on the shelves at your local supermarket, it can only mean one thing; Black Friday is coming.

As loved as it is loathed, there’s no denying that it’s a promotional success story with few equals – and a crucial time for many SMEs and entrepreneurs.

By Matt James

Black Friday dates back to the early part of this century when, as the Friday after Thanksgiving, it was considered to herald the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US. Within no time at all, Black Friday has been supplemented by Cyber Monday, a second bite of the commercial cherry, when shoppers are again encouraged to shop with carefree abandon – just this time online.

Black Friday: creative-style

For the big retailers and e-commerce players, Black Friday and Cyber Monday (respectively, November 27th and 30th this year) provide a huge focus in the commercial calendar and, with shoppers turning up at marketplaces like Amazon, ASOS and eBay in unprecedented numbers, there are opportunities for smaller sellers too. The challenge is to make sure that they can compete for shoppers’ attentions and make good on their promises.

Don’t be mistaken into thinking that Black Friday is all giant TVs, ever-thinner tablets and flashy trainers, however. Specialist marketplaces like www.notonthehighstreet.com, www.folksy.com and www.etsy.com can open up new audiences and sales avenues for many in the creative industries. These marketplaces run their own Black Friday promotions and report audiences and sales volumes increase as a result.

Black Friday: a global phenomenon

In the UK, it is estimated that £810m was spent on Black Friday last year and another £720m on Cyber Monday. This year, some people are predicting the first £1bn shopping day in the UK. But it’s now a global phenomenon too. As well as the UK and the US, last year there were similar events in Canada, Mexico, Brazil, India, Panama, Costa Rica, Romania, Denmark, Sweden, South Africa, France, Norway and Hungary (disappointingly, most countries simply refer to Black Friday as – yes, you’ve guessed it – ‘Black Friday’, though in Mexico it’s known as ‘El Buen Fin’ – the good weekend – and the Costa Ricans have at least gone with a literal translation, Viernes Negro).

Black Friday and Cyber Monday present opportunities for businesses selling on marketplaces abroad. In fact, many small businesses find international marketplaces like Amazon and Rakuten are a great way to dip a toe into the waters of international expansion.

Both have multiple international sites to try, and once you’ve mastered those, there are similarly attractive opportunities through some lesser known marketplaces in different countries where you can capitalise on the Black Friday phenomenon – below are just a few examples:

Newegg: A little known name in the UK but a hugely popular marketplace in the US with more than 22 million registered users, Newegg is a great route into the US market.

CDiscount: France’s largest online retailer, and also provides access to Belgium, Columbia, Ivory Coast, Ecuador, Thailand, Vietnam, Senegal, Brazil, Cameroon and Panama.

PriceMinister: One of the leading marketplaces in France, PriceMinister has around 22 million members and more than 5,000 marketplace sellers.

Rakuten: Founded in Japan, Rakuten enables you to sell into the UK, France, Germany, Brazil, Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Taiwan and Thailand.

In the 15 or so years that Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been around, we’ve learned at least two things. We’ve learned that Black Friday can be for everyone, not just big retailers; and we’ve also learned that it is a global phenomenon with huge opportunities for businesses with an international outlook. I suppose we’ve also learned that a photo of three grown men fighting over a 60” TV in Tesco spreads like wildfire on Twitter but that’s for another day.

Matt James works at international currency transfer specialists World First who can help individuals, small businesses and online sellers save money when making international payments or bringing back money earned overseas.