Black Friday – The Aftermath

With four days of sales, it was a record breaking shopping weekend for UK retailers estimating sales of £3.3bn. Online sales were up 36% from last year, reaching an estimated £1.1bn which is the first time online sales in Britain passed the £1bn mark.

John Lewis claimed that it was its biggest ever day of trading and said that the online spending demonstrated a “different pattern of trade to last year.” This year many retailers extended their black Friday campaigns to run over a week or even longer to ease the pressure on their operations. However, there is still a perception that the day itself is the time to get the best deals as online sales increased. Shoppers staying away from the high street to avoid a repeat of scenes from last year also contributed to this actual.

However, November’s Black Friday sales failed to boost turnover at UK stores according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and accountants KPMG. Figures show sales in stores and online are down 0.4% compared to the same month last year. Online sales of non-food items outperformed food items, up 11.8% on last year.

David McCorquodale, head of retail at KPMG, said: “November’s relatively flat sales figures are a reality check for the retail sector with consumers holding off for a Black Friday bargain pitted against retailers determined to hold onto their hard-earned margins.

“The result was that, despite the hype around Black Friday, there was a minimal loosening of the family purse strings compared to last year and retailers, facing significant cost increases next year, will be striving to wean shoppers off the discounting drug.”

Mr McCorquodale also stated that Black Friday “ended up being more of an online affair” and the that retailers over the next few weeks would focus on a push “to promote the theatre of the store for Christmas in the hopes that the tills will be ringing all the way into the New Year”.

The BRC/KPMG survey found shoppers held back in the hope of big discounts on Black Friday, 27 November, but many retailers did not offer the discounts that shoppers had been hoping for.

Black Friday produced the expected spike in sales, with trading up 25% compared with the beginning of the month. Sales in furniture, and large and small electrical appliances, were higher than last year.

However, the BRC said an increase in “omni-channel” shopping, with consumers using a mix of online and in-store purchases made it hard to know how and when people would spend their money in the crucial Christmas shopping period.

Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “As consumers and retailers continue to adapt to the changing patterns of omni-channel shopping where the lines between channels become less and less relevant, this build-up to Christmas is one of the hardest to read in years”