A Spotlight On Black Friday

This year’s Black Friday was a successful day of deals for many UK retailers. John Lewis & Partners reported record sales, despite suffering issues with the website during this crucial shopping period. Their sales were up 7.7% YoY and they claimed it was the biggest sales week in their history.

But to take a look at what Brits were actually buying, our Lightbox team took to the streets and shopping centres in and around London. Scouring Brent Cross, Westfield Stratford and Oxford Street in a bid to get a first hand experience of the day for British shoppers. The above photo was Oxford Street at 9am that day – not quite the brawl of previous years.

One finding was that there was a degree of deal confusion. According to new findings from the QT – 47% of Brits feel lost in the sea of promotions. In-store, retailers were opting for deals on deals on deals – with promotions such as 50% off everything, combined with free gifts according to a spend over a certain amount. The issue encountered by shoppers here was that the additional gift wasn’t communicated until they reached the counter, sending them into a panic to buy enough to reach the threshold and win big. The in-store experience therefore suffered, with bigger queues resulting from the confusion.

There has been a level of scepticism from Brits about the day itself, with 81% saying that its possible to get good deals all year round – calling into question the significance of this particular shopping event. A question often asked is whether Brits decide to use Black Friday as a way to wade through their Christmas shopping. But we’ve found that this is less prominent than retailers lead you to believe. According to findings from the QT, only 13% of Brits said they were buying Christmas gifts purposely on Black Friday, which was a slight increase on our 2016 findings – which sat at 10%. Even so, this still constitutes a minority.

During our consumer safaris, we could see for ourselves how it was often the gift displays left somewhat abandoned. Despite offering tremendous discounts, they were only an afterthought to a new pair of trainers or winter coat. Indeed, 13% of Brits admitted that they end up buying items they don’t really need.

With a lot of the action moving online in recent years, we also tested whether the deals were as good as they sounded through the e-commerce route. Tracking a selection of headline deals from the Amazon homepage using Camel Camel Camel (an Amazon Price Tracker tool), it was discovered that of the sample, 59% were the cheapest price that they had ever been. However, on average, prices were only 2% cheaper than their previous lowest price, and around 1 in 8 products had been the same price as on Black Friday at a previous point in time.

Which? Research ran a similar analysis on the 2017 deals, and tracked prices of these items post Black Friday. 87% of their items were the same price, or cheaper within the following 6 months, with 47% cheaper than on Black Friday.

With less footfall on the streets, we conclude that savvy shoppers with the tools to price track for themselves are beginning to question what constitutes a deal. There is an opportunity for retailers to cut through the clutter with their next sale period – either streamlining their promotions or simplifying their communications – to help improve the in-store and online consumer experience.