Close to half (48%) of UK shoppers say they plan to buy from Amazon during the Black Friday peak shopping period, according to new research. Meanwhile, more than a quarter (29%) of UK shoppers say they plan to wait to buy for Christmas until products are discounted during Black Friday, according to the study from consultancy Salmon, a Wunderman company. Salmon has previously predicted that £5bn will be spent during this year’s Black Friday event, of which £2.5bn will be spent online.
Not everyone’s convinced by Black Friday, found the Salmon study, which questioned more than 2,000 UK adults about their holiday shopping plans during September and October, via polling company Censuswide. It found that 53% were sceptical about whether certain deals were genuine and represented real savings compared to the rest of the year.
"Black Friday is one of the biggest chances in the year for brands to capitalise on consumers’ love of a bargain, with 25m expected to open their purchases for the sales bonanza this year," said James Webster, head of managed services and peak trading expert at Salmon. "But the selling opportunity is mired in challenges - and the big one is the stranglehold that Amazon has on the sales period. Brands need to be thinking about how they can use the retail giant’s power to their advantage, but also ensure they’re not putting all their eggs in one basket and neglecting other channels; having an in-store presence, selling through online retailer sites like John Lewis and Debenhams or tapping into other marketplaces like eBay are all important in the wider commerce strategy."
The Salmon study also found that 25% of shoppers would consider using a voice assistant to buy in the future, and 22% said they would be more likely to use voice to shop if there were exclusive Black Friday deals available through the channel. More than a third (35%) said they would use them to buy music, video games and films.
"Innovation could not be more important for brands, as consumers continue to crave a digitally-driven and sophisticated ecommerce experience," said Webster. "Voice assistants are just one part of this, but it’s an area that is ready and waiting for the brand that can get the process right. Coca-Cola is the latest brand to get in on the action, offering free samples of its newest flavours for shoppers who order using an Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant. It’s deals like this that will help consumers test the waters when it comes to voice commerce."
Festive sales are set for growth ahead of Christmas, according to analyst GlobalData. It predicts that total UK retail sales will rise by 2% to £98.9bn in the "golden quarter" three months to the end of the year.
It says that food and grocery shopping (+2.5%) will drive the spending, while non-food spending (+1.6%) will be led by health and beauty sales. It expects online sales to grow particularly strongly.
Patrick O’Brien, UK retail research director at GlobalData, said: "Capping off a strong year for the UK online market in which multichannel retailers have consistently reported robust digital growth, Christmas is set to be the icing on the cake with more consumers than ever choosing to buy online for the festive period. Online pureplays will prove popular again this year thanks to their best-in-class shopping experience. Amazon is set to remain a top choice for gift purchases as its broad product range appeals, and as Amazon Prime subscribers turn to the retailer as their first port of call.
"Online spend will be bolstered this Christmas by Instagram’s shopping function, which launched this year, as well as Pinterest featuring direct links to retailers’ product pages. The ease of purchase through social media will drive impulse purchases of partywear as well as gifts across sectors."
Footfall in October fell by 2.0% on the previous year - for the 11th month in a year, according to British Retail Consortium/Springboard analysis. The latest BRC/Springboard Footfall and Vacancies Monitor suggests that the figure reflects the trend for falling footfall to stores - but also suggests that consumers are waiting for Black Friday discounting before they will pay a visit to a store.
The research found that high street footfall fell by 2.3% – declining for the third month in a row, while retail park footfall fell, by 0.2%, after two months of growth. Shopping centre footfall was down by 3.3% - deepening from 2.5% in September.
At the same time, the national town centre vacancy rate was 9.6% in October 2018, an increase on a year ago when the rate was 9.3%.
Diane Wehrle, Springboard marketing and insights director, said: “The rate of decline in October was a fifth greater than the -1.7% drop in September demonstrating that consumer demand is continuing to weaken which, as we head into the key trading period of the year, suggests that Christmas could be challenging.
“At the same time, while the UK vacancy rate has risen marginally to 9.6% from 9.2% in the last quarter, it still remains below 10% as it has done in all but one quarter since July 2015. This is further evidence that the offer in bricks and mortar destinations is shifting to better accommodate continued consumer demand for experience-led visits. The catalyst was the growth in demand for hospitality and, while this is continuing despite the fact that the growth in eating out visits has slowed since the heady days of 2015, it has opened up opportunities for the introduction of more diverse experience and leisure led propositions in destinations that ultimately may well broaden the definition of retail.”
Virgin Experience Days Black Friday Weekend is promising deals of up to 75% off top UK experiences every day, including supercar track, immersive food and drink experiences, segway adventures and football stadium tours.
It says up to 10 exclusive daily deals will be available from across the Virgin Experience Days collection including dining, afternoon tea, driving, adrenaline, tours and spa treats. The deals will be live between Black Friday November 23 and Monday November 26.
Virgin Experience head of marketing, Liam Howard Jones, said: “The shift in consumer spending to experiences rather than physical products continues and we anticipate Black Friday demand to reflect this trend. We’ve handpicked our Black Friday deals offering customers up to 75% off some of our bestselling experiences, giving them the opportunity to snap up some early Christmas gifts or treat themselves to some time out with family and friends in the chaotic Christmas period or escape the January blues.”