What the retail industry learnt from 2015’s Black Friday

It was just over a year ago when the Black Friday madness first arrived in the UK, but it’s already maturing fast.

Online sales soared during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend from November 27th to 30th 2015, with £1.1 billion generated on the Friday and more than £3 billion across the weekend.

Tech etailers enjoyed record-breaking sales; it was the biggest day in Amazon’s UK history in terms of e-reader and Fire tablet sales. Plus, computing was Ebuyer’s top category on Black Friday, with the HP 250 G4 Laptop the most popular item and the Lenovo B50 selling out.

Maplin also had a strong performance. CEO Oliver Meakin says: “Black Friday 2015 was the biggest day of online sales in the history of Maplin. Our top-selling online item was the Ride-On Convertible Car, with one selling every 30 seconds; sales of the Elgato Game Capture were up 201 per cent compared to last year. Interestingly, the biggest growth category was CCTV with more than 200 per cent growth year-on-year.”

However, it was a different story on the High Street. Following the crowds and embarrassing brawls of 2014, where shoppers fought over TVs and the like, several retailers changed their strategy for 2015. Asda pulled out of the sales event entirely, citing “shopper fatigue”.

Sales at US bricks and mortar retail stores also fell (from $11.6 billion in 2014 to $10.4 billion in 2015), according to ShopperTrak.

With most of the attractive deals online, fewer shoppers hit the High Street. UK retail footfall fell 2.7 per cent year- on-year during the week ending December 6th 2015, with the High Street and shopping centres recording 4.2 per cent and 3.4 per cent drops respectively.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, explains: “While the last payday before Christmas has traditionally driven a spike in sales for bricks-and-mortar retailers, there is strong evidence that the spending patterns of consumers are changing. For the first time, the Black Friday long weekend was an online shopping experience for consumers, and it appears that click and collect opportunities have not generated the uplifts in footfall that some retailers may have hoped for.”

A survey of 2,030 online shoppers by eDigitalResearch and IMRG found that while 31 per cent of shoppers either ‘like’ or ‘love’ major discount events such as Black Friday, a further 30 per cent dislike them. The other 39 per cent of respondents remain unsure.

Rupal Karia, MD of retail and hospitality at Fujitsu UK and Ireland, comments: “This year’s Black Friday could not have been any more different than last. Instead of hitting the High Street, digitally- savvy shoppers instead opted to browse in the comfort of their home – or workplace – with more than £1 billion spent online compared to £885 million in 2014.

“This shift represents an ongoing behavioural change in the consumer mindset when it comes to shopping; Digital Inside Out showed that nearly two-thirds of consumers see online shopping as the most valued digital service, a fact that retailers have woken up to.

“Even with increased levels of online traffic, we saw fewer site outages thanks to retailers’ diligence. They also staggered their deals throughout the week and were expected to do so throughout the Christmas period, rather than focusing all of their resources into a single day.

“Last year, some were still viewing Black Friday as an in- store event and looking to Cyber Monday for a spike in online activity. This year, as the lines continue to blur between online and offline retail, the chances are we’ll see them morph into the same event.”

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