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Black Friday: The view from Oxford Street

Drapers took to Oxford Street on Black Friday to ask shoppers why they decided to brave the shops rather than buying online this year.

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Following the scenes of frantic shoppers fighting for bargains on Black Friday in 2014, last year’s event was a quieter affair on the high street. Put off by the chaos, consumers chose to stay at home and browse deals online instead. Analysts and statisticians predicted a similar turnout this year. So, on the morning of Friday 25 November, aka Black Friday, Drapers took to Oxford Street in central London to see if stores were pulling in the crowds.

There’s no doubt that Black Friday has morphed into more of an online event in the UK. John Lewis, for example, said five orders were placed every second between 8-8.30am. And there were (admittedly mixed) reports of low footfall in some bricks-and-mortar retail locations across the country.

But Oxford Street told a very different story. Shoppers swarmed along the capital’s most famous retail street, from Marble Arch station down towards Tottenham Court Road. Bubbly sales assistants stood outside some of the stores persuading customers to come inside and shop. International and European shoppers were also taking advantage of lower prices and the scene mimicked Boxing Day during the Sales.

Shoppers Drapers spoke to said website crashes and the draw of being able to try items on were the main reasons they had taken their chances with the crowds.

Student Chantay Allen said: “I found that websites were crashing and it was hard to get online to shop.” 

She added: “I popped into Timberland and got the shoes that I had had my eye on for a while, because they went down in price. Having the Black Friday Sales is good for people who can’t afford to buy full price, but I don’t think it will ever beat Boxing Day or January sales.”

Office sales assistant Robby Coles agreed that the experience of trying clothes in store still outweighs the advantages of shopping online for some consumers: “I like shopping in store rather than online because I like trying clothes on. I enjoy Black Friday and the energy that it brings to the streets of London. On my lunch break, I’ll be going to Topshop to buy some new jeans. I’ve been swayed by an email giving me an extra 20% off.”


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