Black Friday is the day after the American bank holiday Thanksgiving and the following ‘Cyber’ Monday is thought to be the biggest day for online buying. Black Friday is relatively a new concept in the UK compared to US. In 2013 ASDA (a subsidiary of the American firm Walmart) introduced its “Walmart’s Black Friday by ASDA” campaign to UK. There also have been attempts in the past by retailers such as Amazon to introduced Black Friday to UK.
In 2014, this changed and many UK-based retailers adopted the American style concept of Black Friday than ever before. Among them were ao.com, very.co.uk, John Lewis and Argos, who all provided massive discounted prices, offers and deals to its shoppers. In 2014, the shoppers were all excited as this was new to UK, which resulted to call in police forces to stores across Britain to deal with crowd, assaults, threatening customers and traffic issues as things got out of hand.
However, this year marked a significant change in the way which shoppers reacted towards sales compared with the carnage last year. Springboard, a company that tracks the number of shoppers, stated that footfall across the UK for the weekend was down 9.6% on the year before. Several stores even had their sales spread over the Black Friday weekend and through to Cyber Monday to avoid the stampede and queuing through the doors on Friday. Also after 2014, many shoppers were under the impression that the shops would be packed which resulted many shoppers to stay at home. As a result of the low volume of activities in the retail stores over the Black Friday weekend, this gave significant rise to online shopping. Moreover the growth in ‘click and collect’ service where many shoppers choosing to buy online and then visit the store to pick up their items.
Even though ASDA helped to introduce Black Friday to the UK in 2013, it did not take part in the 2015 Black Friday. It said; “shopper fatigue” has set in “around flash sales on big-ticket, non-essential items at Christmas”.
Online retailer Amazon has been traditionally known to be offering some of the best Black Friday deals and has again gone all out this year, offering a full week of Black Friday Amazon lightening deals from November 23 to November 29 2015. Amazon said Black Friday had been its busiest UK day on record with more than 7.4m items sold on Black Friday alone (up from 5.5m last year), at a rate of around 86 a second.
John Lewis reported that Friday was its largest ever single day of sales. The website took 4.9 orders per second between 9am and 10am. Overall John Lewis saw a 11.9% rise in sales compared to 2014’s Black Friday.
Figures show that online shopping has grown significantly this year with retailers such as Amazon and John Lewis reporting their biggest ever day of trading.
PCA, which tracks online sales, reported a 62% increase in activity between midnight and 7am compared with 2014. More than 126,000 customers reached the point of purchase or the online checkout between midnight and 1am in comparison with just under 53,000 last year, which is more than double compared last year.
Moreover, Very.co.uk said it was ahead of last year with over half a million users visiting the site before 9am and popular searches included ‘consoles’ and ‘TVs’. Currys PC World reported 8 sales per second on Black Friday and said it was selling 30 televisions every minute online.
Some analysts say that Black Friday has distorted Christmas spending, as pulling it forward at a time when retailers traditionally charged full prices and the shoppers are used to and are in a situation to buy at full prices due to Christmas.
Moreover experts say, cyber-thieves are preparing malware and spam campaigns in a bid to catch out retailers and shoppers during the run-up to Christmas. Therefore it is important for retailers to have reliable web operations in place and shoppers to be more aware to avoid such situations.
Website crashes were far less this year as retailers have increased the capacity of their IT platforms to perform well for Black Friday deals. Despite all of it, a few websites still struggled to cope with demand. John Lewis’ crashing for around an hour from 3.20pm (IT firm Capacitas estimated that it could have cost John Lewis up to £2.8m in lost revenue) and Argos, Debenhams and Tesco’s sites all taking longer than normal to load. Moreover other retailers with slow websites include Boohoo.com, Boots and River Island.
The absence of midnight openings and crowded shops, during Black Friday weekend underlines a significant importance in digital shopping. Online shopping had “stolen the show” over the Black Friday weekend as now more customers like to mix and match channels to shop in the most convenient way for them.
Shoppers spent and recorded a £1.1bn with UK online retailers on Black Friday (up 36% on last year) making it the biggest day of online shopping and almost £3.5bn is thought to have been spent in total online by shoppers over the four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Black Friday spending has been more spread out this year and more weighted towards online, however this year set to be the biggest shopping day Britain has ever seen.