Online sales broke through the £1bn barrier for a single day for the first time on Black Friday, but high streets and shopping centres failed to make retail records this year despite heavy promotions.
Many fashion retailers chose to extend the US-imported discount day into a weekend-long extravaganza of flash Sales or blanket promotions to ease the pressure on stores, websites and logistics. Some, such as etailer Shop Direct, turned Black Friday into a two-week cut-price push on pre-Christmas sales.
UK shoppers spent £3.3bn online across all sectors over the four-day period from Black Friday on November 27 and Cyber Monday on November 30, Experian and etail association IMRG have reported.
John Lewis recorded its best-ever single day’s trading on Black Friday this year, with sales up 11.9% on last year. However, it admitted sales on Black Friday were mostly online rather than in stores, which were busier over the weekend.
Although Black Friday is traditionally associated with electrical bargains, Shop Direct deputy chief executive Gareth Jones said the growth in clothing sales outperformed the business as a whole on November 27, up by 73.8% year on year compared to a 64% average.
Dune founder and chairman Daniel Rubin said Black Friday was ”excellent” online but footfall to stores was down, which adversely affected total sales.
“I think a combination of avoiding the scrum of going to the shops and more retailers participating in the event diluted the impact,” he said.
Springboard data showed that shopper numbers were down by 5% on high streets and by 2.7% in shopping centres, while figures rose by 3.3% at retail parks compared to 2014.
The BDO high street sales tracker, which monitors in-store sales from mid-market retailers including French Connection, White Stuff, Oasis, Karen Millen, Coast, Hobbs and TM Lewin, found that fashion like-for-like sales fell into negative territory, down by 1.9% year on year, for the week to November 29.
Fergus Patterson, managing director of Gant, said Black Friday brought solid double-digit increases across the business, although footfall in London was lower than expected.
He added: “The customers who did come in were shoppers rather than browsers, so we saw some fantastic conversion rates.”
The boss of a footwear multiple confirmed that this year’s sales were skewed to online, compared with last year, when in-store sales resulted in more full-price margins.
“The stores were definitely quieter this year so our margins were hit,” he said. “A lot of people are extending the discounting this week, so it will be interesting to see how many people break ranks and go back on Sale before the Christmas rush.”
Many industry observers have raised questions about the customers’ discount mentality and the hit on margins, while others highlighted the level of returns that will, in turn, impact profitability.
Retail analyst Richard Hyman said: “After this year’s Black Friday, we are heading into the most cut-price Christmas I have ever seen because consumers have just been switching spend into a reduced-price November rather than a typically full-price December.”
Jigsaw was one retailer that took an active anti-discounting policy ahead of Black Friday.
Chief executive Peter Ruis said: “The bottom line is sales for last week were up year on year and profit was considerably up.
”The true value will be seen as this week trades into the weekend and we have full stock availability and very low returns.”