Online sales reached an estimated £1.23bn on Black Friday, up 12.2% on the same day in 2015, but less than the original forecast of 16% growth.
New figures from ecommerce organisation IMRG found UK consumers spent £6.45bn online over the Black Friday peak period of Monday 21 November to 28 November – 5% down on the original forecast.
Although the number of visitors to online retail sites on Black Friday continued to grow this year, the actual growth in sales revenue was held back by a lower-than-expected increase in the percentage of those visitors converting to buyers, the research showed.
There was no breakdown for fashion sales.
“Over the past few years Black Friday has consistently demonstrated a remarkable capacity for shifting in terms of size and scale,” said IMRG managing director Justin Opie.
“In 2014 the volume of orders exceeded forecast by over 30%, in 2015 we had empty shops and this year it seems to have become a genuinely extended period of heightened sales activity – taking place over a week (and more in some cases), which is not entirely dissimilar to the way that Christmas peak used to be online before Black Friday disrupted the established pattern in 2014.”
IMRG editor Andy Mulcahy argued that the while margins are clearly under pressure from the scope of discounting, figures showed that average basket values are actually increasing. They reached £90 in October, which is the highest since March 2011.
“Discounting activity isn’t just specific to Black Friday – it is used all year,” he said. “The trick is to employ it as a hook to attract shoppers to access the top deals, but then associate products with the discounted goods – either available at full price or a lower discounted rate – that are likely to appeal at that time, helping to average out the hit to margins.”
He also pointed to etailers such as Amazon, which opened up its sales events to sponsorship from American Express for Black Friday and Braun for Cyber Monday this year, thereby creating additional revenue streams to help buffer any hits to profits from discounting.
Online sales at womenswear retailer Quiz soared 90% year on year on Black Friday.