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UPDATED PEAK 2019 From a better-than-expected Black Friday to Cyber Monday

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In today’s Peak 2019 round-up, we report on Cyber Monday, on figures that suggest that more shoppers than expected visited stores and shopped online on Black Friday, and we also have insights into the shape of peak spending. Looking ahead, a new tool shows some retailers enabling Christmas ordering as late as Christmas Eve. 

Cyber Monday

This week saw Cyber Monday – which used to be seen as the peak pre-Christmas online shopping day. But is the day now simply day four – or more – of pre-Christmas discounting that started on Black Friday?

Not according to Amazon. It says that Cyber Monday was the biggest single shopping day in its history, in terms of the number of items ordered. It said that customers around the world shopped at record levels, ordering hundreds of millions of products between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday, alone. Sales of Amazon devices were up, with bestsellers including the Echo Dot and Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote.

“We’re focused on making this holiday season more convenient than ever for our customers, especially given how short this holiday shopping season will be,” said Jeff Wilke, CEO worldwide consumer at Amazon. “We are thrilled that customers continue to come to Amazon in record numbers to discover what they need and want for the holidays. Thank you to our customers and employees all around the world for making this holiday shopping weekend the best yet.”

• So what did leading retailers do for Cyber Monday? Among the Elite retailers of the IRUK Top500 research index, Amazon, New Look and H&M all rebadged their Black Friday pages to Cyber Monday. H&M moved from offering 20% discounts on Friday to ’up to 50%’ on Monday. Argos marked the day on a home page that also featured Black Friday deals, while its sister retailer Sainsbury’s still featured Argos’ Black Friday event on its home page. At John Lewis, Cyber Monday was simply the final day of its Black Friday weekend. 

Store visitor numbers beat Black Friday expectations

The number of people going into UK shops to buy on Black Friday beat expectations, two new sets of figures suggest. 

Retail intelligence specialists Springboard said today that footfall rose by 3.3% across the full day – compared to Black Friday 2018 – with more people visiting high streets (+2.4%), retail parks (+1.9%), and, most strikingly, shopping centres (+6.5%). Numbers appeared to peak on Friday afternoon. The figures beat both Springboard’s own predictions, which envisaged visitor numbers falling by 4.5%, and last year’s fall of 5.4%.

Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “This positive result may well seal the deal for retailers in terms of their commitment to Black Friday moving forward, as they will have claimed shoppers early on in the Christmas trading period, giving them the opportunity to steal a march on their rivals.”

Looking ahead, Springboard now expects Saturday December 21 to be the busiest trading day before Christmas, before rising again on December 27, 28 and 29. 

Meanwhile, ShopperTrak said footfall on the high street was 6% up on Friday – compared to 2018 – before growing by 6.8% on Saturday. Growth was less marked on Sunday, however. 

Nick Pompa, global general manager at ShopperTrak, said: “There’s little doubt Black Friday remains a key period for bricks-and-mortar.  The importance of the promotional event in driving in-store footfall extends not just across the Black Friday weekend itself, but also in building momentum into Christmas trading, as retailers extend their in-store promotion strategies.”

Insights into Black Friday online sales

• John Lewis reported a record week last week. Sales were up by 60.4% (year-on-year) in the week to November 30, as the department store benefited from the comparison with last year when Black Friday fell a week earlier. Sales were also ahead, by a more modest 2.1%, compared to the Black Friday period in 2018.

In 2019 its promotions period started earlier and lasted for 11 days in 2019, compared to eight days in 2018. In the first 10 days of the Black Friday event (22nd November – 1st December 2019), sales were 9.5% up compared to the same 10-day period around Black Friday last year (16th November – 25th November 2018).

Bérangère Michel, partner and operations director at John Lewis & Partners, said: “Sales were driven by demand for our Black Friday deals and competitor offers, which we price matched through our commitment to our Never Knowingly Undersold policy. The continued strength of our gifting and Christmas assortment also contributed to strong sales.  

“Both our shops and website traded well, with the extended sales period delivering smooth operations across our distribution channels. The busiest hour for customers to shop John Lewis deals online was 9am to 10am on 29th November and there was a 43% increase in traffic to the John Lewis & Partners app during the week compared to the same week last year. A number of our shops also saw record sales over the seven days.”

Big sales boosts came in fashion sales (+71% YOY), home (+18%) and electrical and home technology (+81%).  

• It wasn’t just retail products that sold well on Black Friday, according to Richard Hurd-Wood, chief executive of Virgin Experience Days, who says that sustainably-minded shoppers decided to invest in experiences instead. 

He said: “This year marks a huge year for retailers, with Black Friday once again proving a day of colossal sales across the UK.

“While traditional retailers have no doubt done well, evidence of a growing appetite among consumers for experience-based gifts has also emerged. This year, we saw our year-on-year growth increase by a staggering 92% over the Black Friday weekend, with some days doubling their sales versus the previous year, signalling a shifting of attitudes towards gift buying.

“There will always be a place for physical gifts in consumers’ gifting budgets, as we’ve seen by another strong year for retailers, but these aren’t always enough to fully satisfy the meaningful messages consumers are trying to convey through their gift-giving.

“Sustainability has been a key talking point this year, with consumers becoming more conscious of the environmental impact of their purchasing habits. We’re also becoming increasingly cynical of the ‘bargains’ on offer, with only one in twenty deals ‘being genuine’ according to research by Which? This, combined with a backlash against mass consumerism, could result in a less successful Black Friday next time round if retailers fail to respond. The sector must be careful not to become complacent, as a reimagining of their retail offering might be needed in the coming years to suit our growing demands.”

• Barclaycard says that its figures showed sales were up both in Black Friday week, compared to last year, and into Cyber Monday.

Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said: “Retailers will be delighted to see that sales volumes for the full week of Black Friday (Monday 25th Nov – Monday 2nd Dec) were up 7.14% compared to last year.

“Shoppers took full advantage of the discounts on offer; on Black Friday itself sales volumes were 7.2% higher compared to last year, while sales value was also up 16.5%.

“This continued right though to Cyber Monday where we saw sales increase 6.9% compared to 2018 data.

“These figures show that consumers have not only been buying more, but also spending more than last year – which will no doubt come as welcome news to the retail sector as the countdown to Christmas gets underway.”

• According to Shopify’s analysis of UK merchants using its platform, online sales peaked at 9pm on Friday. Orders were worth an average £51.47, and shoppers took an average 21.93m to complete their purchases, from the start of their visit.

• Figures from Love the Sales suggest that more retailers than ever before promoted Black Friday deals, with 6% more doing so than in 2018. There were also more discounts available on Black Friday with 49% of all online goods on sale, as tracked across six million items, and the average discount came in at 32%, up from 31% last year. However, before Black Friday, November saw the lowest number of deals hit the online market in 3 years (15% less than last year). Retailers understood the demand on the day, by offering better deals on Black Friday. They throttled the number of products on discount, throughout the rest of the month.

Retailers also had higher online conversion rates this year than the previous three Black Fridays: they were 77% ahead for US retailers and 21% for UK retailers using Love the Sales. It says that although footfall across the board increased on Black Friday, shoppers also flocked to online sales, with this year’s Black Friday Love the Sales’ biggest ever, with more than double the amount of customers on Black Friday alone (compared to 2018).

Stuart McClure, CMO and co-founder of Love the Sales said: “It’s been an exceptional Black Friday for UK and US retailers. Our data across six million products showed that a lot of retailers were holding back with deals throughout the month of November. We believe this is because they wanted to make a big splash on the day and because it coincided with pay day. It was a successful strategy as data proves this to be the biggest Black Friday ever.

“Our figures show that deals dropped off after the Black Friday weekend (12%), but based on previous years’ patterns, we predict that designer brands and multi-brand retailers will be fighting for customer attention with big discounts on the last two weekends before Xmas.”

Looking ahead to Christmas

Setting final order deadlines for Christmas delivery can be challenging. Set the deadline too early and shoppers buying later on will go elsewhere for items that need to arrive before Christmas. But setting it too late risks disappointing shoppers if items don’t arrive in time. A Christmas deadline checker from home delivery specialist ParcelHero shows that those retailers that are able to deliver same-day – such as Amazon and Argos – are now offering pre-Christmas delivery for orders placed as late as Christmas Eve. But shoppers need to order online from Evans Cycles as early as December 17, or from Zara by December 18. 

David Jinks, head of consumer research at ParcelHero, said: “Many shoppers do like to leave it as late as possible to order online; perhaps in the hope of last-minute bargains or just because of good old-fashioned procrastination. Whatever the reason, they should not leave it too long as a number of stores’ deadlines are as early as Monday 16th. This is particularly the case if they specialise in heavier items such as cycles or furniture. In contrast, some other retailers, such as Amazon and Net-A-Porter are actually offering Christmas Eve same-day ordering.”

Jinks suggests that the last recommended date for sending a parcel by courier is December 20. 

Image: Fotolia

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