InternetRetailing rounds up the latest news, insights and trends on how retailers and customers are responding to peak trading this year. With Black Friday and the Cyber Weekend now behind us, all shops in England are now able to trade around the clock in the run up to Christmas.
Non-essential shops are currently open in Wales but are now closed until December 11 in Northern Ireland. In Scotland non-essential shops are closed in Tier 4 areas including Glasgow, also until December 11.
Over the peak trading season, IMRG has been tracking 320 ecommerce sites to find out how many would take part in Black Friday promotions. The findings showed that more retailers went live with their discounts earlier than ever this year, with around 7% offering Black Friday promotions on week one of November - that’s almost double compared to 2019 (3%).
But fewer ran promotions overall. IMRG found that just over 80% ran promotions – less than the 84% who did so in 2019. was just over 80%. Despite this, Black Friday online sales still grew by 38% this year.
Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG says: “It does beg the question: when is Black Friday? Have we now just ended up with - it’s the full month? How is the customer supposed to make any sense of when this is happening?”
Some changes in consumer behaviour this year were highlighted as areas of concern for retailers. John Leslie, regional leader of Ultra Commerce, said: “Another area we saw which was lost opportunity was heavy bounce rates on mobile and tablets (70%). The concerning thing about that is, mobile and tablet was 65% the dominant force for purchases.” That is likely to reflect the shift from working in an office to working at home for many this year.
Primark today said it had seen "very strong" trade since its shops reopened in England – and markets including France, Belgium and the Republic of Ireland, in the last week. "Sales in the days since reopening in each of these markets have once again been very strong, reflecting the excitement and appeal of the Primark offering," parent company Associated British Foods said in an AGM trading update today. "We have extended the opening hours during this festive season in most of our stores in the Republic of Ireland and England to cater for the anticipated higher customer demand and to help ensure a safer environment by spreading shopping hours over a longer period."
But the group said that closure over the autumn would cost it an estimated £430m, and that 34 of its shops, representing 7% of its selling space, are still currently closed, including all of its stores in Northern Ireland and Austria.
The update came soon after the latest footfall estimates suggested the number of people visiting English shops grew by 150% week-on-week as non-essential stores reopened from a four week national lockdown
As a result, footfall recovered to -26% year-on-year on December 2 – the day of reopening – the strongest performance since September, according to the Shoppertrak footfall index.
Andy Sumpter, Sensormatic Solutions’ EMEA Retail Consultant for ShopperTrak, says, “Retailers will be hoping this isn’t just pent-up demand creating a footfall ‘flash in the pan’ and that visitor numbers to shops will be sustained in the run up to Christmas.
"Our latest data shows that, due to lockdown and varying levels of restrictions imposed across the country in November, we could now see more than twice as many shoppers hitting the High Street in December, creating a compressed three week Christmas shopping window.
"Key to ensuring those shoppers keep returning to the High Street will be all about instilling confidence in physical shopping journeys and reassuring consumers that shops are safe."
As in-store visitor numbers rose, online sales dropped, according to figures from Barclaycard Payments. It said that by noon on Tuesday, there were 16.9% fewer payments compared t the same period on Black Friday.
Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said: “With physical stores only having been open for a few hours, it’s not surprising that today is tracking behind Black Friday in transactions. We expect the gap between Black Friday and ‘Black Wednesday’ to narrow as we continue through the day, as more shoppers hit the high-streets – especially with many retailers extending their opening hours to take advantage of the new social distancing guidelines.”
The latest figures represent a sharp recovery in footfall from the November lockdown. Data from Springboard suggested that the number of people who visited UK shops in November was down by 51.2% compared to the same time last year, according to Springboard figures. Visitor numbers were down, year-on-year, across high streets (-58.7%), shopping centres (-58.8%) and retail parks (-26.9%), according to the latest Springboard Footfall Monitor. But while footfall was well down on the same time last year, it was still not as low as it was in April and May, when it averaged a fall of 76.7%.
Springboard says that it detects a degree of lockdown fatigue among shoppers and pent-up demand for visits to shops.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, says that if the bounce back in footfall this week reduces the decline in footfall to around a half of its current level, it "would be welcome news for retailers who have just three weeks in which to recover nine weeks of sales lost during the most critical trading period of the year.”
UK Flooring Direct, which Top500 retailer in RXUK Top500 research, says it had its biggest single day on Black Friday.
The retailer took 1,400 orders during the day – 87% up on the same time last year – and sold 38,400 sq m of flooring by midnight – enough to cover five football pitches. The retailer has had a busy year as more shoppers have turned online to buy during Covid-19 lockdowns, and it now expects to grow its workforce from 170 to 200 people before the end of the year, and expects to add a further 100 staff next year.
The company opened a second Midlands site in Coventry in October, and then won £8m in investment from BGF in November.
UK Flooring Direct chief executive Jason Ashby, said: “This has been a really difficult time for the whole country and now, more than ever, people have been investing in their homes due to the fact that we are all spending much more time there.
“We were growing very quickly prior to 2019 but there is no doubt that lockdown has accelerated the pace of growth in online retail and we have invested heavily in people and technology to be at the forefront of the flooring market.”