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£6bn Black Friday bonanza predicted – but not for stores

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Some £6.77bn is being forecast to be spent on UK online retail sites over the Black Friday peak period this year – with 51% of the total coming from mobile devices as shoppers look for convenience rather than crowds, according to IMRG and SimilarWeb.

Now covering the period Monday 21 to Monday 28 November 2016, the Black ‘Five-day’ shopping phenomenon covers a whole week – or more if you factor in Singles Day – and is being driven by online, with shoppers losing interest in going into actual shops looking for bargains.

And this is going to have a huge impact on Black Friday as IMRG reckons that more than one in four people (27%) say they ‘always’ or ‘usually’ wait for sales to kick in before they shop.

This is backed up by a separate study by Barclaycard, which reveals that frustrated consumers are turning their backs on the high street, and that that will be most manifest over the Black Five-day period.

Barclaycard found that although half of UK shoppers still prefer to buy clothes in-store, consumers are turning away from bricks and mortar stores in their droves, with 37% opting to buy online more frequently as demand for faster service and flexibility soars.

Increasingly busy and technology-savvy shoppers cite lack of time as a primary reason for buying online more often (32%), with the high street falling out of favour due to crowded shops (45%), queues at the checkout (42%) and long waits for fitting rooms (29%). As a result, almost two thirds admit to abandoning an in-store purchase – indicating the importance for retailers in improving the bricks and mortar experience, particularly during the upcoming busy festive season.

To give the high street a welcome boost, the research suggests that retailers need to bring their in-store and online offerings more closely together to create an omni-channel shopping experience.

Looking ahead, shoppers are also calling for high-street retailers to introduce new technology to help improve and speed up service. Popular requests include touch screens displayed in stores to check stock availability when browsing (30 per cent), ‘digital changing rooms’ which allow shoppers to try items on through virtual reality (30 per cent) and apps to scan and automatically pay for items without having to visit the checkout (19 per cent).

Sharon Manikon, Director of Customer Solutions at Barclaycard says: “Our research shows that consumers no longer want to have to choose between buying online or in-store. Instead time-pressed shoppers crave a personal experience that allows them to take advantage of technology and a high street presence, brought together seamlessly in a way that works best for them.”

Manikon continues: “To drive sales in an increasingly competitive environment, retailers need to focus on aligning their digital and high street offerings so that they complement each other. By using technology such as payment apps to reduce queues and virtual reality tools that allow shoppers to visualise themselves wearing items of clothing, retailers can lay the foundations to survive and thrive during the busy upcoming festive period and well into the future.”

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