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PEAK 2021 How shoppers are buying as peak trading moves on from Black Friday to Cyber Monday and beyond

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We round up the latest figures and insights as peak trading moves from Black Friday into Cyber Monday – and beyond. 

Shoppers spent less online on Black Friday: IMRG

Online retail sales were 14.3% down on Black Friday, compared to the same day last year, according to the IMRG Capgemini Online Retail Index, which tracks the online sales performance of more than 200 retailers.


The fall was greater than the 10% decline that IMRG had predicted, given that shoppers last year had no choice but to shop online in a second Covid-19 lockdown. This year, traders began their discounts much earlier in November, according to IMRG, which found that from a sample of 317 retailers, there were 25 live Black Friday events on Wednesday November 3, up from nine on the same day in 2020. But by Wednesday November 24 there were 196 live campaigns, down from 220 on the same day in 2020. On Black Friday itself, the number rose and was in line with last year again.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says:: “In 2020, the lockdown in November accelerated the trend for retailers launching their campaigns earlier in the month. In 2021 it went earlier again though participation did seem to run out of steam a bit toward the actual big day. It’s early days in analysing what just happened, but it does seem logical that earlier discounting will pull share away from the peak week, meaning the stretching out of Black Friday into a month-long event looks like it is being achieved.”

Lucy Gibbs, managing consultant – retail insight at Capgemini, says: “Online sales were expectedly lower than last year’s lockdown boosted figures as consumers returned to the high street. However, search trends have also been lower this year for terms related to Black Friday and conversion rates did not pick up as strongly. As we dive deeper into the performance this month we should be able to understand if this was predominantly due to a return to the in-person experience, or whether other factors such as longer lower discounts and continued supply chain disruptions have played a part.”

Shoppers bought earlier because of shortage concerns: study

Shoppers bought earlier than usual this Christmas because of concerns about shortages, new research suggests.

Thrasio, a leading acquirer of Amazon sellers, questioned more than 2,000 UK adults and found that 56% said they had finished their Christmas shopping by last Friday, with 51% concerned about shortages. It says that shoppers showed more concern about shortages in regions that were more affected in October’s fuel crisis, with 54% of Londoners concerned, well ahead of those living in Yorkshire and Humberside (30%) and North East England (33%). 

The study suggests that 48% of Christmas purchases will be bought online, especially by older shoppers aged 65 and over (41%) and younger shoppers age between 18 and 24 (42%). 

Jim Mann, director of UK acquisitions at Thrasio, says: “All the indications are that online sales in the lead up to the festive period will be the biggest on record. Supply chain issues coupled with the growth in ecommerce and a bounce back in spending from last Christmas’s damp squib mean that consumers plan to spend more, spend it earlier and spend it online. 

“Our research has produced a lot of interesting details. For example, online purchasing will have risen 10% in two years. It shows that half the population will buy nearly half of all their goods online – a profound shift in consumer behaviour. Crucially, the growth is across all demographics and regions. As younger people have recorded the biggest growth this is likely to be a permanent change.”


Black Friday store visitor numbers up on last year and last week – but behind 2019

Shoppers did venture out for Black Friday shopping, the latest data suggests, although the number of people hitting the shops was still almost a quarter below pre-pandemic 2019.

Black Friday footfall was 35% up on the previous week, but remained 23% down on the same day in 2019, according to Sensormatic Solutions’ footfall index. That’s a recovery from 2020, however, when Black Friday football was 79% lower than in 2019, as non-essential retailers shut and Black Friday trading took place mostly online. 

Andy Sumpter, EMEA retail consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, says: “Despite not reaching pre-pandemic levels, Christmas has started to come early for High Street retailers, who will be welcoming the Black Friday boost to trade that traditionally marks the start of the festive season.  Over the past 12months, we have seen a slow but steady resurgence of High Street shopping, as consumer confidence has grown and demand for in-person shopping has risen.”

The company says that the figures, which come in the wake of the CBI’s warnings of impending price hikes, may well have encouraged shoppers to make the most of discounting deals this weekend. It also cites Pricer data suggesting that 57% of shoppers are now more price sensitive than they were before the pandemic. Sensormatic’s own research suggested that 79% aimed to start Christmas shopping before the beginning of December, with 34% doing so in November – seven percentage points higher than in 2020. 

“Retailers will be hoping that initial Black Friday success doesn’t turn into a ‘blue Monday’ and that demand can be sustained into December, their most crucial trading period,” says Sumpter. “That relies on smoothing out bumps in supply chains to reduce shelf gaps, so consumers can be confident the items they want will be available when they shop, as well as leveraging click-and-collect capabilities in-store to ease the burden on the digital fulfilment network when demand rises.”

Meanwhile, figures out today from Springboard suggest that while footfall rose on Black Friday across shopping destinations, compared to the previous week, the number of people visiting high streets fell for the first time. It saw footfall rise by 2% in the week to Black Friday, compared to the previous week, with the growth driven by shopping centres (+6.5%) and retail parks (+4.9%). For the first time, however, footfall to high streets was lower (-0.5%) than the previous week since Black Friday first became a UK event. 

Store visitor numbers were still 17% down from the same time in 2019, however, but were 102% up from Black Friday 2020. 

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, says: “There were some strong gains in footfall in UK retail destinations last week – the week of Black Friday – however, all of the uplift came from shopping centres and retail parks.  The overall results for the week leading up to and including Black Friday weekend was dampened by a far weaker footfall performance in high streets than anticipated, and a drop in high street footfall on Black Friday itself for the first time in history.

“Three factors sit behind this; firstly, the large proportion of office employees continuing to work from home meant that rather than visiting high street stores during the working day on Black Friday, for those shoppers who wanted to shop in store on Black Friday it was easier to head out to shopping centres and retail parks. Secondly, a reduction in overseas tourists in the UK has resulted in far fewer leisure shoppers who on Black Friday would typically head to Central London, large

Initial figures from Barclaycard Payments suggested on Friday that shoppers had made 23% more transactions – both online and in-store – than they did a year earlier.

Ecommerce platforms report higher Christmas sales

Shopify has reported a record Black Friday, with sales of almost $2.9bn around the world. In the UK alone, the average order value rose to £65.60 from £58.89 last year. In the UK, 10am was the peak sales hour, with apparel and accessories the top product category, and 22% of orders cross-border 

Shimona Mehta, managing director of EMEA at Shopify, says: “We’re thrilled that our merchants have seen record sales this Black Friday and remained resilient despite external pressures like supply chain shortages in the UK. In just a single day, Shopify’s merchants collectively made $2.9 billion in global sales, with the peak sales hour in the UK happening at 10am GMT. This year has shown that the days when shoppers have to flock to shops to get the most out of Black Friday are gone. They are making the most of deals online, on social media and everywhere in between. Our data shows that 72% of global sales were made on mobile.”

Salesforce, meanwhile, saw Black Friday online spending fall 8% on the same time last year, although average order values were 9% up on last time. Shoppers bought 4% more products per order, but the average discount of 22% was 12% down on last year. 

Rob Garf, VP of industry strategy at Salesforce, says: “We saw moderate growth on Black Friday with consumers really responding to personalised offers. Redemption of personalised offers outpaced generic offers by two times on Black Friday. We expect retailers will continue to lean into digital marketing — that leverages data and intelligence — to encourage shoppers to get the best discount while inventory is [hopefully] still available on Cyber Monday.”

Around the world, Salesforce says that $63.4bn (£47.5bn) was spent on Black Friday – 2% up on last year. Cyber Monday spending, however, is expected to be flat. Salesforce’s holiday spending hub can be seen here

Final online order dates changing

Retailers are bringing forward their last online delivery dates as they respond to supply chain shortages and delays, says a parcel comparison site. 

ParcelHero had already warned that many last pre-Christmas dates were too optimistic, in the light of factors including driver shortages, port delays, bad weather – and other supply chain issues. Now it has dubbed the retailers who have brought forward final order dates ‘responsible retailers’. 

“Delivery issues are already biting,” says David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero. “Right now some retailers, such as Asos UK, Cath Kidston, Joules and The White Company have temporarily suspended their fastest, more expensive, next-day home delivery options, which is a sensible move. Given the anticipated problems in supply chains and deliveries created by Covid-19 and Brexit, we were alarmed to find how close to the wire many retailers’ final online order dates were when we re-launched our Christmas deadlines tool again this year.

“It’s good to see that some retailers are doing the responsible thing and pulling their final order dates earlier in December to allow time for delays and disruption.”

Last year, says ParcelHero research, Christmas online sales were 56% higher than in 2019, and this year one in three shoppers plan to buy entirely online. “In normal times,” says Jinks, “retailers and their delivery partners could cope with the expected increase in orders. This year, the expected supply chain disruption means there would have been a lot of disappointed little faces around the Christmas tree had dates not been moved.

“Given the current strain on delivery services, we won’t be surprised if even more retailers bring forward their final order dates as Christmas nears. That’s why our continually updated Christmas deadlines tool is so useful for keeping shoppers in the know with all their favourite retailers’ final order dates.” 

According to ParcelHero’s Christmas delivery date checker, Asos has brought forward its final delivery date for Christmas to December 23 from December 24, while suspending next-day deliveries. Boohoo, Harrods, Karen Millen, Warehouse New Look and Topshop have all brought forward their final Christmas delivery date to December 22 from December 22, while Cath Kidson has brought its final delivery date forward to December 15 from December 23, and Urban Outfitters to December 21 from December 22 – and to December 9 for furniture. 

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