Black Friday in the UK: Here to stay?

| By: Alex Shepherd

As I am sure you are aware, Black Friday is a shopping event originating in America that takes place on the Friday after Thanksgiving. The name Black Friday originates from it’s ability to tip a company from the red into the black, and this day traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season in the US. Over the last couple of years, we have seen Black Friday become a hit in the UK. The question is, is this just a passing fad, or does it have staying power amongst our British consumers?

Black Friday only arrived in Britain a few years ago, when Walmart-owned Asda began offering special promotions surrounding the day in 2013. Promising “earth-shattering deals” on items like laptops, TVs and more, the sale sparked big crowds… and copycats. The following year, many other UK retailers were joining in for a piece of the Black Friday profits. Now, shoppers have come to expect these deals.

Last year, Black Friday sales helped to drive an unexpected jump in UK retail sales, defying many forecasts. November 2015 retail sales volumes were up 1.7% over October, much higher than the 0.5% predicted by Reuters. Even the yearly forecast, predicted to show 3% growth in sales volumes, reached an impressive 5% growth. Consumer spending both in stores and online during Black Friday was a large factor.

If last year is any indication, shoppers should be ready for another Black Friday event, right? Perhaps. A recent survey showed 31% of UK consumers think Black Friday deals are no better than sales throughout the year, and 50% think the deals are “more of a marketing gimmick.” That said, many people are still taking advantage of the sales in other ways.

Research cited by the Telegraph showed that there was a 279% increase in eCommerce on Black Friday 2015, and predicts up to 25% more people will take their shopping online this year. Although Black Friday is a retailer-driven holiday, it seems shoppers are taking advantage of the deals in their own way. They might not be out fighting someone for a TV at their local Asda, but they can still participate in the sales online from the comfort of their home.

All this goes to show that Black Friday seems to be gaining ground. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, 27% of UK adults  say they plan to buy something on Black Friday or Cyber monday this year, and spend on average £203–double what people spent in 2015.

“Our research shows Black Friday and Cyber Monday are definitely here to stay, with sales over the weekend due to grow by a predicted 38% to £2.9bn,” said PwC’s retail and consumer lead Madeleine Thomson.

As for me, I think Black Friday is here to stay (at least for the time being). Of course I believe that this is a bit of a marketing vehicle, and it has been very interesting to see the examples of retailers who have gone against the grain and used their anti-Black Friday stance to their own advantage. For example, Aldi has made a point of reminding customers that they treat every day like Black Friday, while John Lewis promoted that they price match any day of the week. That said, I like a deal as much as the next man, so I will certainly be engaging in some retail therapy on and around the 25th. However, I think I will opt to do this from the comfort of my own home and do my shopping online.

____

Alex Shepherd is EMEA Commercial Director at Corraa New York, Los Angeles and London based digital commerce agency creating unified commerce experiences for fashion, lifestyle and beauty. Corra’s ecommerce strategy, design and technology professionals are trusted by retailers of all sizes to implement and support the Magento Enterprise and hybris platforms.