Pre-Christmas sales were largely unheard of in the UK a few years ago, but Asda changed all that in 2013: the American-owned supermarket stormed the shopping world with its Black Friday TV deals and made national news with the resulting checkout disruptions. Like other traditions originating from the US such as Halloween and prom night, this tradition has stuck.
With Black Friday spending increasing from £435million in 2013 to a whopping £1.1billion in 2015, and increasing again in 2016 on the face of it, the numbers seem to indicate a huge win for retail.
But are we actually spending more, or are we just shopping earlier?
Black Friday: the new Boxing Day
Consumers in the UK traditionally left their shopping until the weeks leading up to Christmas, and Boxing Day was reserved for bargains. With the advent of Black Friday, however, the pattern is changing. According to Visa UK’s Expenditure Index, while overall spending increased by 2.1% in November 2015 year-on-year, it rose by just 1% in December, indicating support for the idea that we are in fact not spending more and merely the timing of the seasonal rush has changed.
Tech takes charge
The Black Friday effect is influencing the way we spend when it comes to in-store vs. online, too. Richard Jenkings of Experian tells the BBC:
The Black Friday promotions at the end of November are the start of a longer, more drawn-out peak season, which begins with most of the activity online and then moves in-store as we get closer and closer to Christmas Day.
Online retailing association IMRG predicted that well over half of the Black Friday spend in 2016 would be from online shopping, and it wasn’t wrong. Figures from retail intelligence outfit Springboard showed that high street footfall on Black Friday fell by 7% in 2016 compared to 2015, and figures from PCA Predict showed an increase in online sales of up to 25%.
With news reports of stampedes and fights at the checkout over HD televisions, an armchair approach to securing great deals has more than a little to commend it over a high street mission.
Price comparison sites are making it even easier to compare Black Friday deals in order to pin point the best offers.
Retailers see their advantage
Retailers such as Currys PC World, Argos and Tesco launch online-only deals before Black Friday hits, allowing customers to pre-register their interest so they can be notified first about promotions. Fashion purveyor Lyst lets its customers register items they like so they’ll be in the know if and when an attractive Black Friday discount is applied.
The logistics of offering such conveniences from behind the desk of a high street store is a virtual non-starter. For the high street to even begin to compete with that kind of convenience, we point to the retailers with vision bolstering the brand-engagement work of their sales associates, which we write about here.