More UK retailers than ever before participated in Black Friday this year in the face of tough trading, despite growing concern about the discounting day’s impact.
The number of retailers promoting Black Friday deals was up 6% year on year, reported Lovethesales.com, which monitors online discounting across more than 1,000 retailers. They also offered slightly deeper discounts this year, slashing prices by 32% on average, compared with 31% in 2018.
Barclaycard, which processes about £1 of every £3 spent in the UK, said it was an “outstanding” Black Friday compared with last year. It reported total transaction values up 16.5% on last year, and the volume of transactions up 7.2%.
Peter Youell, managing director of Skechers UK and Ireland, said he observed “more Black Friday messages over the weekend and online” than ever before: “Skechers had an amazing Black Friday weekend. We saw big year-on-year growth through our retail division, as well as online. Sales also did well via our wholesale partners across all divisions: home shopping, online, department stores and independents.”
Footfall across shopping centres, high streets and retail parks was up 3.3% year on year, research firm Springboard reported.
“The proximity of the weekend to payday, and the fact it fell a week closer to Christmas than in previous years likely provided the boost,” said Gordon McKinnon, operations director at shopping centre owner Intu, which recorded a 6.9% uplift in footfall from Friday to Sunday, compared with the Black Friday weekend in 2018.
The managing director of one footwear high street retailer said: “We had a good Black Friday weekend. The run into Christmas looks brighter than we thought. However, we have an election soon that might derail things.”
Some retailers predicted that Black Friday would continue to grow in scale next year.
“It’s not going away – it’s a sales driver,” the managing director of one high street retailer said. “Customers expect that Black Friday actually means promotions not only for a full week, but also discounts leading right through to Christmas.”
Another high street managing director agreed: “Black Friday will continue to grow in the UK. There will probably be a Sale event every month of the year in the future.”
Several independents Drapers spoke to this week said they took part in the discounting day this year.
Julie Schroer, senior creative manager at London womenswear independent Blaiz, said: “We saw sales increase fivefold during our online promotion, which ran from midday on Thursday 28 November to midnight on Sunday 1 December.
“So, it’s been a much bigger year for us. A lot of retailers seemed to start earlier and with bigger promotions. You could sense a feeling that it was a real event.”
However, some complained that they felt pressured into discounting to keep up with the larger chains and department stores.
Edward Pritchard, owner of menswear independent Pritchards in Hereford, said: “We did take part and have taken part for the last four years. We discounted slightly more than we have on previous occasions and as a result had a bigger trading day.”
But he added: “Overall, I feel it’s an American import that is detrimental to how we run our year, but we have to take part because if we don’t, we miss out on sales – albeit at a reduced margin.”
The managing director of one menswear independent agreed: “Major retailers always say they are not going to do Black Friday, or not going to be as big a deal as before, but they never want to miss an opportunity for a sale. They’re pressured into it.
“We never used to take any notice of Black Friday – like most independent stores we felt it was more for the big stores, who could easily afford to give away 50% on one day of the year. For the first time this year we felt that we had to take part as consumers only seem to go where the deals are nowadays.”
- Some retailers, including Whistles, supported “Giving Tuesday” on 3 December – a fundraising day organised by Charities Aid Foundation, which encourages charities and businesses to donate time or money to a good cause as an antidote to the pressure of Black Friday and pre-Christmas spending.