Black Friday: a white Christmas or just grey all over?

The Black Friday sales results are in, the Xmas ads & promotions are out, the lights in Regent Street are on, even the CollidaScope office Xmas tree is up. For brands & retailers is it a time of cheer or staring into one’s beer?

  • Black Friday sales have risen in the UK despite fewer shoppers on the high street. Barclaycard, who process half of all debit and credit card transactions, estimate spending has finished up 8% on 2016.
  • Much of this growth has been driven by a surge in on-line sales. According to IMRG, the UK’s association for on-line retail, Black Friday sales increased by nearly 12% to £1.39bn, significantly ahead of an original forecast of +9%.
  • This on-line growth is despite Black Friday being relatively early this year – 24th November, so occurring before payday for many people; and also many retailers launching their promotions in advance of the day itself.
  • In the high street though, the scenes of near riots outside supermarkets three years ago now seem a distant memory. Visitors to shopping centres, retail parks and high streets are down by 8%, making Black Friday more of a ‘mid grey week’ according to shopper traffic measurement firm, Springboard.
  • Meantime many of the UK’s top retailers have splashed out again on cinematic-style blockbuster ads for the run-up to Christmas.
  • John Lewis seems to have formed a rod for its own back now as the pioneer of these kind of ads according to Toluna, the question-and-answer service who polled 1,000 consumers about this year’s ads from thirteen retailers.
  • When asked whether a Xmas ad changed their perception of a brand, John Lewis came in second from bottom on the list. The winners were Amazon (40%) Agros (28%) & Aldi (22%).

There’s been much debate whether Black Friday merely brings forward the traditional pre-Xmas sales peak rather than generates incremental sales. Now that it’s become so extended it seems almost a pre-Xmas mini-promotion, indeed some have termed it as creating a ‘golden quarter’.

When Christmas advertising is thrown into the mix & its associated social media fuss, you have to wonder whether any of these activities has much effect on shoppers & consumers after the beginning of December.

Certainly, the incremental sales effects of this maelstrom of activity is very measurable on-line and in-store, but how many brands & retailers actually do it to establish how best to promote and advertise over this critical period maybe another matter.