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The Black Friday effect on shopping: BRC and Hitwise figures

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The Black Friday effect on shopping: BRC and Hitwise figures
The Black Friday effect on shopping: BRC and Hitwise figures
More than a quarter of retail sales took place online in November as shoppers turned to the internet to snap up pre-Christmas bargains over the Black Friday period, new British Retail Consortium (BRC) figures suggest.

Some 27.7% of non-food sales took place online during the month, according to the latest BRC-KPMG Retail Sales Index. This is the highest proportion of online sales that the index has ever recorded, and the 11th month in a row that the figure has been over 20%.

The move online came as online sales of non-food products grew by 10.9% in November. A year earlier they had grown by 11.8%. The growth was just ahead of the 12 month average of 10.8%.

“November was the third consecutive month of double- digit growth for online sales. The Black Friday sales period had managed to secure significant growth last year, making November a tough comparison," said Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium . "So this month’s figure of 10.9 per cent, slightly ahead of the long-term trend of 10.8 per cent, is positive."

Across the industry, total UK retail sales grew by 1.3% in November compared to the same time last year, while like-for-like sales, which strip out the effect of store openings and closures, grew by 0.6%.

Non-food sales grew by 40% in the week that included Black Friday.

Paul Martin, UK head of retail at KPMG , said: “There was an increased preference for shopping online this November, undoubtedly the result of the Black Friday shopping bonanza that has grown in popularity in the UK. Online sales grew by 10.9 per cent on last year and penetration rates for the month rose to a staggering 27.6 per cent. Shoppers were clearly happy to forgo the high street whilst hunting for bargains online.

“All categories performed well, however toys and baby equipment were at the top of the list for shoppers. Well timed e-Promotions, as well as eager Christmas shoppers, were likely to have been the main contributors to the rise.

“Health and beauty products continued to remain popular. In the midst of the overpowering scent of the discounts galore, the category stood out.

“Retailers now face the challenge of processing the inevitable returns following the surge in sales, all too easily overlooked amidst the excitement of Black Friday. The pressure then turns to ensuring deliveries will make it under the Christmas tree in time."

Dickinson added: "Retailers of goods that don’t traditionally benefit from the event, such as clothing, saw weaker Black Friday week sales this year, but made the most of the increased online traffic in the weeks building up to the 25th November by offering promotions to capture shoppers browsing for early bargains.

“Overall, consumer spending remains stable, although very much value-driven with a focus towards products on promotion as shoppers take advantage of the deals of the moment and retailers strive to offer the best choice and value to their customers. With an extra weekend to shop for Christmas this year, nerves will be tested in December as retailers choose their strategies to attract the last minute gift shoppers.”

Meanwhile, Hitwise figures showed that during almost 243m visits to retail websites were recorded on the day of Black Friday, with a further 181 million visits on Cyber Monday. Across the Cyber Weekend as a whole, visitors paid 777 million visits to retail sites, and across Cyber Week the total reached nearly 1.5bn website visits.

Online shopping struck post-work between 6pm and 9pm on Black Friday, whilst traffic to specific sites also peaked at different times of the day.

Early bird shoppers drove traffic to John Lewis and Currys PC World to search for deals, whilst traffic from search to eBay and Amazon was higher in the evening, peaking specifically at around 8pm.

Late-night bargain hunters were also shown to drive traffic from social media, with site clicks from social peaking between 12am to 4am. But search engines dominated referrals, accounting for 41% of all clicks over Cyber Week.

Whether buying for themselves or others, this year’s shoppers found beauty goods (+14 per cent on 2015) and fitness products (+12 per cent on 2015) more appealing. Amazon and Argos generated the bulk of website visits, according to Hitwise, while department stores which drove 41% of visits to shopping sites on Black Friday itself.

Nigel Wilson, managing director of Hitwise, said: “From email, to social media, to display, this year’s Cyber Week felt a bit crowded with the onslaught of digital advertising and communication. As consumers, this year it seems we all took different strategies to making the most of the deal – some in the early hours on Facebook, others hitting the retail sites hard after work. Retailers who well-understood their consumer behaviour across key channels, and found their sweet spot hours to target advertising, fared much better this year. It’s clear that retailers need to go beyond search alone to drive sufficient and relevant traffic to their website during these key events.”

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