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How leading UK retailers are getting ready for Black Friday

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Black Friday, the day that’s expected to be the UK’s biggest-ever online shopping day as the industry passes the £1bn sales milestone, is now just days away. We take a look at what leading retailers are doing in the run-up to the event.

IRUK Top500 Elite and Leading retailers are taking a no holds barred approach to Black Friday. Others are eschewing the whole event. We take a look at what Elite and Leading retailers in our index are doing.

According to ICM Unlimited research, the main sites that shoppers plan on visiting on Black Friday are Amazon, Argos, Asda, Tesco, Currys, Debenhams and John Lewis, crossing over with the IRUK500 list of Elite and Leading retailers.

IRUK Elite retailers

Amazon is now well into its Black Friday deals week, which started on Monday. More than 7,000 deals will go live during the course of the week, with new ones starting every 10 minutes. “Yesterday we saw high demand for deals from the early hours of the morning and we expect to see this build throughout the week towards Black Friday itself,” said Christopher North, managing director, Amazon.co.uk. “We have been asked whether we believe that Black Friday 2015 will be the biggest sales day ever. We will have to wait and see but we are certainly ready if it is with more distribution centres, more stock, more deals and a large team of talented people ready to fulfil the highest levels of demand.”

Argos started its Black Friday event early, with a series of White, Blue and Red Fridays that were intended to spread the load of visits. Here’s my colleague Paul Skeldon covers its approach.

Marks & Spencer hasn’t, as yet, let Black Friday take over its home page. Nonetheless its Christmas section, reached from the left hand tab on the home page, is extensive, covering everything from Christmas offers (3 for 2 on toys, decorations and gifts) to prosecco, trees and and getting the home prepared, not to mention the all important link to delivery dates. We were particularly struck by the quick links to popular Christmas searches: Frozen and Star Wars.

House of Fraser is embracing Black Friday in all but name, with the use of black across its 30%-off fashion and home party event. Shoppers can also watch its TV advert straight from the home page, where there’s also a reminder that this is the time to order that festive sofa for pre-Christmas delivery.

John Lewis , never a trader to rush into an event, is price matching a competitor’s promotion today, no doubt that House of Fraser sale. Visitors can, again, watch the Christmas ad straight from the home page, while ordering their Christmas tree, real or artificial, for home delivery. A Christmas tab, again, on the left, takes shoppers straight to the Christmas shop, with gift, decorations and Christmas jumpers featuring prominently.

Leading retailers

Asda has notably opted out of Black Friday this year, a year after supermarket scuffles over cheap TVs hit headlines. It says its customers are now more interested in good offers throughout the year. At the time Asda turned its back on the event, Andy Clarke, Adsa’s president and chief executive, said: “The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event itself. Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales. With an ever-changing retail landscape, now more than ever we must listen carefully to exactly what our shoppers want and be primed and ready to act the minute their needs change.

“When it comes to putting customers first, Asda has always led the way, which is why we’re just as confident in our decision to step away from Black Friday as we were in introducing it to the UK.”

Instead, the Coca-Cola lorry features alongside Father Christmas on the supermarket’s home page, where there are also links to a big brand toy sale, Christmas jumpers, party wear and to a Christmas inspiration section.

Tesco is, by contrast with Asda, very much doing Black Friday, which is front and centre of both the tesco.com website and the tesco.com/direct websites. Tesco Direct features a timer counting down to Black Friday (though when we looked the timer seemed to be stuck.) Prominent messaging alerts to the fact that demand for offers is already so high that deliveries will take between five to seven days.

Model retailers

Sister companies Currys Digital and PC World are now running a 10-day Black Tag event, with deals on goods such as large screen TVs, laptops, wearable tech – and nutriblenders. It expects to sell enough TVs over the Black Friday period to cover the circumference of the M25 (if laid flat). A new set of Black Friday deals will go live on the day itself.

Stuart Ramage, ecommerce director at Dixons Carphone said: “We saw record-breaking sales last Black Friday so, for this year’s event we’ve worked hard to offer our biggest number of lowest-ever deals on a range of fantastic brands, starting today. We will also be introducing new deals on Black Friday itself, online and in stores nationwide.”

It has staffed up for the event, taking on more than 900 staff in its delivery and distribution centre in Newark who will drive more 800 vans. It says it has doubled website capability to deal with click and collect and related demand. Last year, notably, Currys introduced a queuing system to spread the demand from people waiting to buy on its site.

Ramage added: “Customer experience is at the heart of our Black Friday operation and it’s why we’re launching our Black Tag event from today – for us, it doesn’t start or end with Friday itself. With our strengthened website prepped for inevitable traffic surge and store staff raring to go, plus a 40% increase on stock, we’ve worked hard to ensure our shoppers can pick up the best deals at a pace that suits them, whether be that in-store or online over the 10-day period.”

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