Fewer people are expected to head to the shops on Black Friday compared to the same time last year, new forecasts suggest. Instead, shoppers are expected to buy online or even to ignore the event.
Footfall is expected to fall by 4.5% next Friday across all retail destinations, compared to Black Friday last year, says retail intelligence specialist Springboard. High streets are set to be hardest hit as visitor numbers fall by 5.5%. The prediction follows falling Black Friday footfall in both 2018 (-5.4%) and 2017 (-3.6%). Springboard predicts that Black Friday footfall will be down across all store locations, including retail parks (-2.5%) and shopping centres (-4.5%).
Across the whole of Black Friday weekend – up to the end of Sunday – it expects footfall to be down overall (-4.4%), and on high streets (-5.1%), retail parks (-3.3%) and shopping centres (-4.2%).
Shoppers instead look likely to opt to buy online or to ignore the event in the light of the ready availability of discounts, says Springboard. Having said that, Springboard says that spending online could be used over Black Friday, with IMRG having forecast a rise in online sales of between 2% and 3%, and with a real possibility of sales staying flat.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “For those who do shop on Back Friday it seems that the decision will be more about ensuring product availability in advance of Christmas rather than securing the lowest price.”
She added: “These results reflect the low confidence of consumers that has been impacting on their willingness to spend throughout the year. Consumers are increasingly favouring experience and leisure-based trips over retail shopping. Given the ongoing uncertainty in the run up to the general election, this is unlikely to change over Black Friday weekend.
Andrew Westbrook, head of retail at business adviser RSM, says that discounts are likely to start earlier and be on offer for longer than in previous years.
He said: "It’s hard to believe that Black Friday only arrived in the UK five years ago but it has now become a permanent – and vitally important – fixture in the retail calendar. These types of one-off promotion days have grown in popularity and importance in recent years. UK retailers will be hoping to emulate the success of Singles Day in Asia – the biggest shopping day on the planet - which saw Alibaba alone take a record breaking $38.4 billion in just 24 hours.
"Last year, Black Friday sales were a little disappointing, not least because the day fell before pay day. This year, it lands after pay day and with many stores having stocked up in anticipation of Brexit, the pressure will be on to convert this stock into cash - ideally without sacrificing too much profit margin.
"As a result, this year’s Black Friday discounting season could start earlier and last longer than ever. With competition likely to be intense, bargain hunters will be in their element. High street operators with the most desirable locations will be hoping to do well, but the real battle for market share is likely to be online. The competition here will be fierce. While luxury brands will try to maintain full prices, we expect to see fast fashion fighting heavily on price and discounting. The somewhat desperate middle market will be the place to shop this year. Pieces selling between £20 and £50 – perhaps the cost of a new Christmas party outfit – is where we would expect to see the best value for consumers.
"This year, we are also likely to see an increase in creative discounting, whereby online retailers offer member-only discounts or special promotions for loyal customers. The retailers’ assault on customer inboxes has already begun, and traffic is likely to reach fever pitch as we approach the big day.
"While some retailers resent Black Friday, for others it will be crucial for their survival. The past year has seen many struggling retailers being forced to throw in the towel. Stores that don’t put up a good fight this Black Friday could suffer a knock-out blow."
Online and multichannel retailers JML, Lakeland and Amazon are to feature in the upcoming Buy It Now for Christmas. People from across the UK who have invented products are invited to the Buy It Now studio to pitch to an audience of real shoppers and, in the ultimate focus group, get live feedback on their products and the chance to get a big order from a well-known retailer; Amazon Launchpad, Lakeland, and JML.
The inventors have the goal of getting their products on to high street shelves or with huge online retailers in time for Christmas and the busiest shopping time of the year.
Ken Daly, chief executive of JML, returns to the show for a second year. He said: "At JML, we’re always looking to invest in exciting new products so it has been very rewarding to be a part of the show again and meet innovators from all over the UK. Last year we bought into Hairshark, a clever new hairbrush. It was a great success for us and we have subsequently purchased hundreds of thousands of units."
Buy it now for Christmas is on Channel 4 at 8pm on Thursday.
David Warburton, principal threat evangelist at F5 Networks, explains how retailers can prepare for a heightened risk of security threats over the coming weeks
He says that as Black Friday and Cyber Monday loom, hyperactive online activity and potentially compromised purchasing, promotion and sales behaviours are like a red rag to a bull for enterprising cybercriminals. "Retailers need to protect both operations and customers. The costs of slipping up are significant, with IBM’s 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report revealing that the global average, per-record cost of a retail breach is $119 (up 1,7% year-on-year)," he said.
His recommended security must-haves include:
It is essential to have the wherewithal to determine transactional inconsistencies, such as a regular customer’s card being used on a foreign device.
Multifactor authentication should be implemented on any system connecting to high-impact assets. Ideally, application-layer encryption can also supplement TLS/SSL to maintain confidentiality at browser level. Enhanced levels of application-layer visibility and control can mitigate distributed and polymorphic injection risks.
Attackers go after the poorly protected. Tokenisation and in-app encryption can protect personal and financial details during the check-out process.
Create an inventory of web applications
The process should encompass a thorough audit of third-party content. The process is complicated by third parties linking to other websites with a tendency for substandard security controls.
CISOs increasingly recognise the importance of running external scans to get a hacker’s eye view of the situation. This becomes even more important when huge quantities of content are assembled at the last minute on the client side.
Monitor for code changes
Regardless of where code is hosted, it is important to stay educated – irrespective of whether new vulnerabilities are emerging. This means monitoring GitHub and AWS S3 buckets, as well as native code repositories.
Implement web filtering solutions
Prevent users from inadvertently visiting phishing sites. When a user clicks on a link, the solution blocks outbound traffic.
Inspect encrypted traffic for malware
Traffic from malware communicating with command and control servers over encrypted tunnels is undetectable in transit without some form of decryption gateway. It is vital to decrypt internal traffic before sending it to incident detection tools for infection detection.
Improve reporting mechanisms
Incident responses should include a streamlined and guiltless method for users to flag suspected phishing.