News and Insights


26 Nov

Will Black Friday Lighten the Mood For the UK High Street?

Black Friday

Black Friday is supposed to be a bright spot in retailers’ calendars. But in recent years it has only delivered a small uptick in spend compared to October’s consumption. 

Black Friday is supposed to be a bright spot in retailers’ calendars. But in recent years it has only delivered a small uptick in spend compared to October’s consumption. 

Will Black Friday 2019 buck this trend for bricks and mortar stores with a return to Black Friday’s glory days of significantly higher footfall and much more spending? Or will we see a continued increase in online Black Friday sales? 

We take a look at the data and explore a surprising preference among younger shoppers that could mean better Black Fridays are on their way.

Will Black Friday Rescue UK Retailers in 2019?


Retail intelligence experts, Springboard, forecast that Black Friday weekend – this year falling on Friday 29th November to Sunday December 1st – will see a -4.5% drop in retail footfall.

High streets are predicted to bear the brunt of this decline with a decrease of -5.5% following two years of falling footfall of -3.6% in 2017 and -5.4% in 2018. 

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard commented: “For those who do choose to shop on Black Friday, it seems that that the decision will be more about ensuring product availability in advance of Christmas rather than securing the lowest price.”

What’s Driving Changes In Footfall?

Despite Black Friday falling on a pay day weekend, people are less likely to hit the high street and more likely to shop online from the comfort of their own homes. IMRG, the UK’s online retail association, expects online Black Friday sales to be muted predicting an increase of just +2-3%. This is the lowest forecast they’ve published for a major online sales event.

Both on and offline, retail discounting throughout the year and scepticism over whether Black Friday truly offers outstanding deals has eroded shoppers’ confidence and their reasons to buy. Consumers could also be favouring experiences and leisure trips over shopping, diverting money away from the retail sector. And some believe ongoing political uncertainty and a winter election means shoppers are holding onto their money. 

Research from Accenture’s 2019 Festive UK Shopping Survey found that environmental concerns are also restricting growth as 53% of consumers are expected to accept pre-loved gifts over the festive season. Although, more positively, the same research reveals that 87% of UK shoppers expect to spend the same or more this festive season in comparison to 2018.

Generation Z Ready To Reinvigorate Black Friday

Generation Z Shopping

So who’s likely to be spending on Black Friday? Research from across the pond by The NPD Group identifies Generation Z as the group heading straight for Black Friday deals spending mainly on clothing, accessories and electronics. Classed as people aged seven to 22, the older segment of this generation – from 18 to 22 – plan to spend the least of all the generations. Although a third intend to spend more than they did in 2018.

UK research shows a similar trend with 45% of younger millennials and 38% of Gen Z looking to spend more than in 2018. Those planning on increasing their outlay expect to spend mainly on festive dining, children’s toys and clothing.

Interestingly, US Gen Z-ers are less likely to shop online than US Millennials or Gen X. If this trend is replicated in the UK, this segment could provide the footfall boost that Black Friday 2019 needs. 

Where Does This Leave Black Friday?

With younger consumers tending to seek great value and an in-person experience, Black Friday has the potential to come full circle. If Gen Z remain true to their current shopping habits and, as they become older, earn and spend more, Black Friday could continue to receive a boost.

It’s also possible that as people age their shopping habits will adjust. Trailing a family around to find the very best deals on a packed Black Friday doesn’t have quite the same feel. This is out of retailers’ hands. However, brands can control their tactics and make the necessary changes to appeal to a wide range of current consumer demographics. 

And a good place to find inspiration is the US and China markets.

Talking in the Retail Gazette, Linda Ralph, the vice president of International Business at Mood Media said UK retailers could learn a lot from China’s Singles Days: “Many British retailers have overlooked the importance of the in-store experience over the period, focusing instead on discounts as the way to drive sales,” she said.

“The Black Friday in-store experience has become negatively associated with chaotic scrambles, which is where British retailers can take inspiration from their Chinese counterparts to encourage in-store visits and drive customer engagement.”

By making Black Friday a fun, interactive and social experience, retailers can drive consumers back into their stores. What kinds of experiences can draw major crowds? Alibaba booked Mariah Carey and Cirque Du Soleil performers to kick their festivities off with a bang. 

Shoppers could also vote and play augmented reality games on smartphones apps during the performance to earn credits and reveal deals during a four-hour countdown to the retail event.

That’s a far cry from sticking up 50% off signs in shop windows or making coupons available from on-line voucher providers which only engage consumers around the transaction.

By lifting their in-store game over the Black Friday period, retailers have an opportunity to acquire new customers and create ongoing engaging in-store and online propositions that encourage new customers to spend, stick and stay.

How Can Retailers Bring Black Friday Back From the Brink?

With a better understanding of the spending intentions of different demographics, it’s easier for retailers to turn Black Friday into an amazing customer experience. 

Data from Barclaycard showed that Black Friday shoppers in 2018 were buying more items but spending less. A better understanding of consumer desires could help retailers encourage consumers to move away from small treats to high-spend items.

If retailers can create the buzz that accompanied the early days of Black Friday – in 2014 footfall increased by 9.8% – this could be enough to entice more shoppers back onto the high street.

With stories about the UK high street more doom and gloom than all things bright and beautiful, a Black Friday sales uptick might not provide a long-term solution to high street woes. Yet if retailers can generate insight into consumers across the ages and entice them with a retail experience that resonates, there’s a chance that brick and mortar stores could turn things around. Not just over Black Friday but throughout the rest of the year too.

Find out more about the strides REPL is taking with data science and predictive analytics to support the customer journey, sales and profit.

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