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Who wants it! – The rise of Black Friday

The Friday after Thanksgiving in the US is traditionally known as ‘Black Friday’ –  a US phenomenon where Retailers traditionally offer big discounts aimed at Christmas shoppers. For the US this is the biggest shopping day of the year and whilst Walmart broke with tradition in 2011 by opening stores on the Thursday (Thanksgiving evening) Friday is traditionally seen as the start of  Christmas shopping.

Since its introduction in the UK over 15 years ago it’s now firmly established over here. In fact Black Friday has now become the start of a weekend of discounts here in the UK culminating with Cyber Monday. But this year, attention has ramped up, and awareness has reached high levels as a result.

Figures released in the US by the National Retail Federation have highlighted that this year spending across Thanksgiving weekend exceeded $57.4bn. Whilst  2013 overall sales were down slightly at -3%, the  online channel rose by over 20%.

Here in the UK initial shopping figures show marked spikes in online shopping figures as shoppers took advantage of huge discounts; whilst in store battles to get the best deals took on a new meaning with fights and scuffles breaking out over big ticket discounted items.

The British Retail Consortium figures for November highlighted UK sales up 0.6% on a like for like basis and 2.3% compared to same time last December. These figures have almost certainly been aided by last weekend Mega deals and the rise of online sales in general. Recent estimates predict record sales of over £500m for Cyber Monday (the optimal On line sales peak of the year) alone and online sales are predicted to account for 20% of all sales by Christmas day. The IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark have also highlighted massive growth for sales completed via mobile devices (94.3% year on year increase) accounting for over 33% of total online sales.

Asda, Debenhams and John Lewis were heavily involved in promotional activity over the weekend and there are already retailers setting new records with Amazon sold over 4 million items across last weekend.

Here at SPA Future Thinking we carried out a short poll to see what staff made of last weekend’s shopping extravaganza. Only 14% weren’t aware of Black Friday, but just under 50% were aware of Black Friday both here in the UK and US, however only 18% had taken advantage of it this year to bag some bargains. For staff whilst a healthy 35% shopped in store, on-line was where it was at with over 56% talking advantage of the weekend’s offers.

In store:
For those shopping in-store it was the deals themselves that really stood out. Half of the team noticed great deals although they had to contend with more shoppers and longer queues (40%), busier car parks (20%) as well as anti-social behaviour (20%).Interestingly only a third had noticed specific Black Friday point of sale in stores.

On-line:
On-line is the shopping format of choice with two thirds of our sample citing better deals as the reason to stay at home, although  the catch was contending with high levels of out of stock items (nearly two thirds of us highlighted this as an issue). Clothing, shoes, toys and games made up over 55% of purchases with purchase of electronic items surprisingly low – although this was driven in part by fewer deals on the season’s ‘Must have’ gadgets.

Buying for:
Not surprisingly of  course we were largely buying Christmas gifts for the family although just under 15% still managed to buy items for ourselves. Just under 30% spent in the region of £200 – £500 taking advantage of savings in the region of 26-50% .

Whilst Black Friday and Cyber Monday clearly seem to be generating sales the key question is whether or not they are leading to increased overall spend across the Christmas period; or is it a case of shoppers simply getting their Christmas shopping done earlier whilst also taking advantage of reduced prices? Evidence would suggest that this is the case, with shoppers telling us that they have simply moved their spend forwards rather than adding in extra funds versus their expectation.

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