Online sales during this year’s Black Friday discount bonanza (20-27 November) are forecast to increase by 15% year on year to £7.42bn.
According to IMRG sales on Black Friday itself (24 November) will also be up 9% at £1.35bn and 80 of the 210 retailers the organisation tracks were already running discounts before Black Friday week had officially started, with 46 of them offering discounts of 30% and over.
IMRG also noted a change in many retailers’ marketing strategies in the lead-up to the event this year. Black Friday has encouraged shoppers to wait for the end of November to start their Christmas shopping causing a lull in sales in the preceding week. To counteract this many retailers started discounts earlier with others holding back from advertising any intention of offering Black Friday discounts in an attempt to shift shopper psychology.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, commented: “Black Friday has created this idea that there is ‘a time’ to shop in the lead-up to Christmas, but this has resulted in a lull in sales activity preceding Black Friday week. Consequently, many retailers are already running discount campaigns well in advance of the Black Friday week to help stimulate sales – we are tracking 210 UK retail sites daily throughout November and, on Monday 13 November (one week before the peak week begins), 80 of them were actively promoting discounts on their home pages.”
“Of that 80, just six were marketed as Black Friday events, three mentioned that their Black Friday event was coming soon and five used the term to run associated, but not actual, Black Friday campaigns – such as ‘the Black Friday warm-up…’ or ‘why wait for Black Friday…’. It’s also become common to use black backgrounds to campaign imagery to imply it’s Black Friday, but without overtly mentioning it,” Mulcahy added.
He said the early discounting and the high level of it raised questions about whether those retailers would offer even bigger deals during the Black Friday week itself or whether the shoppers would believe those were the best deals they were going to get and shop earlier during November. “[…] does Black Friday now technically last for the whole month of November, just without using the name necessarily?” Mulcahy said.
Black Friday was imported into the UK by a few large US and US-owned retailers, building momentum between 2010 and 2013. By 2014 it had gained a reputation as being ‘the day’ of the year when shoppers would be able to get the best deals. This put huge pressure on retailers – and their supporting operations – to cope with demand.
In 2015 the trend was for an extension of Black Friday to cover a four-day weekend, to help spread out that demand. Then in 2016 much of the Black Friday-specific marketing and sales activity was concentrated over the duration of a week, which is something IMRG anticipates will happen again this year.
Last week GlobalData predicted that overall spend during the Black Friday period would be up 3.8% at £10.1bn as more and more retailers took part in an attempt to make up for sluggish autumn trading.