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Black Friday: Online prevails over high street

Shoppers spent online instead of taking to the high street on Black Friday this year, as retailers reported a “strong performance” overall.

Springboard reported that UK high street footfall was down by 4.2% on Friday 24 November, compared with Black Friday 2016, while the amount spent online soared by 11.7% to £1.6bn, said IMRG.

Barclaycard estimated that UK spend on Black Friday in total increased 7% on 2016.

John Lewis said Black Friday this year was the biggest ever day in its trading history, but did not differentiate between store and online. Fashion sales for the week to 25 November were up 9.9% and the category experienced a record week for online sales.

More retailers took part in the event this year, including Next which ran its first ever Black Friday Sale on 24 November, offering discounts of up to 70% across all departments, which include menswear, womenswear and kidswear. It brought forward product earmarked for the Boxing Day Sale for the event.

Erica Vilkauls, chief executive of womenswear multiple East, said online sales performed “much, much better” than those in store with a split of 60:40 respectively.

“Sales were up 65% on the event last year without too much margin damage,” she said. “Having the offer over a week – from the 21 November to 27 November – ensured both web and logistics operations didn’t get overloaded, and customers received their orders in a timely manner when shopping online.”

Cecile Reinaud, CEO and founder of maternitywear brand Seraphine, agreed an online focus secured retailers’ success this year: “People think it’ll be really busy in store, while online shopping is comfortable.

”Trading overall was up 40% on last year for Black Friday itself, which is 20% higher than we forecast – a really good performance.”

Off-price etailer SecretSales said it had its strongest week this year, peaking on Black Friday itself.

Co-founder and chief commercial officer Sach Kukadia said it was a winning year for online: “Shoppers want convenience, not just price. People are time short, and shopping online is a way to access products in a much easier fashion.”

Anthony Thompson, chief executive of Fat Face, reported a “significant” uplift in seasonal product sales online, such as gloves, hats and nightwear, from Thursday 23 November onwards despite not discounting over the period.

“There’s no question that we saw more online traffic than in store, and I think in terms of how Black Friday operates, it does seem to support online retailers,” he said. “Those with an omnichannel business no question saw a bigger uplift online than in shops.”

High street footfall in central London on Black Friday was not helped by false reports of a terror incident at Oxford Circus Tube station. Footfall in the area fell by 12% year on year on the day, the New West End Company reported, after what police described as an “altercation” shortly before 5pm sparked mass panic among visitors. Sections of Oxford Street were cordoned off. 

“The incident did affect central London,” said Peter Ruis, chief executive of Jigsaw.

He added that, despite not discounting over the weekend, trade at the retailer was “pretty positive”, and like-for-like sales were up 33% on Sunday 26 November.

Nick Neil-Boss, director at consulting firm AlixPartners, said: “Consumers, quite rightly, look in store before they buy, then nip online to make the purchase. This will become an increasing trend, so retailers that integrate an online and in-store experience will be – and so far have been – the most successful this year.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • Will also create another new high. That of returns!

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