The run up to Black Friday 2021 has been marked by uncertainty – from supply chain delays and logistics staff shortages to the effect inflation and Covid-19 will have on this year’s Christmas spending. Now it’s here we’ll be focusing on the data, as we look to find out how shoppers are buying in practice.
The questions we’ll be looking to answer include: are retailers taking part in Black Friday? What level of discounts are they offering? What are their key messages to shoppers? Are shoppers spending – and how, when and on what? We’ll be updating this piece regularly during the course of Black Friday, with the latest news at the top of the story.
Black Friday spending this year has remained ahead of the same day in 2020 – with 23% more payments made by 5pm – and 2019 (+2.4%), according to Barclaycard Payments.
Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, says: “We’re now able to look at the majority of today’s transaction data, and we can see that the number of transactions has increased by 23 per cent this year when compared to 2020.
“As we reach the end of the Black Friday, it is great to see that the trend we have been seeing throughout the day has continued, and retailers will be happy that today’s trading figures have surpassed those secured in 2019 . They will be hoping for this spending pattern to continue, not only in the last few hours of trading, and into Cyber Monday, but also in the run up to the festive season. Consumers have retained their love for grabbing a Black Friday bargain, proving this event remains a firm fixture in the annual shopping calendar.”
Black Friday payments up to 1pm today were 23.3% up on the same time in 2020, according to Barclaycard Payments. It says transactions – both online and in-store – are also 4.2% higher than on Black Friday 2019. The company says this shows there’s a strong appetite for spending this Black Friday – and predicts one of the most successful Black Fridays on record.
Rob Cameron, chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, says: “Over the past few years we have seen an increase in the volume of transactions on Black Friday, with the exception of last year, when transactions were impacted by COVID-19 restrictions and the closure of non-essential stores. Encouragingly, Black Friday this year is off to a strong start despite a challenging macroeconomic backdrop.
“This morning we’ve already seen an 23.3% increase in transactions compared to Black Friday 2020. It’s clear that there is still appetite for the savings that are to be had, and consumers are making the most of shops being open to pick up a festive bargain. Retailers will also be pleased to see their sales volumes have recovered to pre-pandemic levels, and have surpassed those seen in 2019. So far the data looks extremely promising and we should be set for one of the most successful Black Friday shopping sprees on record!”
• Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at retail association IMRG, says that shoppers may have done much of their shopping earlier on in November, when spending grew by 10% between the second and third week of November – lower than the 20% growth typically seen in previous years.
He says: “Those early campaigns might have pulled volume forward, and Black Friday week (week four of Nov) would need to be very strong for the amount of money spent online to reach its usual levels.”
• The number of people visiting shops this morning was ahead of the same time last week, but remained almost a quarter down from 2019 levels. Footfall was 7.2% up by noon on last week, with the fastest rise in shopping centres (+16%), followed by retail parks (+10.7%) with high streets (+1.3%) some way behind, according to figures from Springboard.
Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, says: “It is the largest shopping centres where footfall increased the most, by +29.1% from last Friday whilst rising by only +2.2% in the smallest community centres and by +11.5% in mid sized shopping centres.
“Despite the tube strike footfall rose in Central London by +13.3% from the week before. The draw of large city centres is clear, as footfall in regional cities outside of the capital rose by +6.5% whereas in market towns footfall dropped by -5.2% from last Friday and only rose by +1.8% in Outer London high streets. Despite the increase in footfall, it remains -24.2% below the 2019 level across all UK retail destinations.” Footfall was furthest behind 2019 in shopping centres (-29.6%) followed by high streets (-27.8%) and retail parks (-10.9%). Central London was 28% down on Black Friday 2019, while the largest drop was in coastal towns (-34.7%).
How are retailers approaching this Black Friday?
Amazon, an elite retailer in the RXUK Top500, is offering a variety of Black Friday discounts today, ranging from items under £15 through to “lightning deals” which are offered on a first come, first serve basis. Deals are categorised by product type, including Amazon Devices, Fashion, Sports and Computers. There is also a focus on promotions being offered specifically by small businesses selling on the marketplace.
Voucher codes are the most prominent Black Friday deal being advertised on the Argos landing page today. For example, “Save 10% on all TVs with code TV10 and 20% off toys with code TOYs20”. Clear information on how to redeem these codes at the checkout is also displayed on the landing page, with the messaging “Must end Tuesday”.
UK supermarket, Asda, has specially selected “rollback deals” on its feature Black Friday page, which mainly pictures discounts on technology items. Its clothing brand, George, also advertises up to 25% off all clothing, footwear and accessories. The delivery cost is not made obvious until customers reach the checkout, which notes a £3.00 charge on orders under £40.00 and a £3.00 charge on Click & Collect orders under £25.00.
Although Marks & Spencers promotes “special offers” on its central landing page, there is no explicit mention of Black Friday. In this section, consumers can find up to 70% off in the brand sale, as well as discounted products and promo codes.
Health and beauty retailer, Boots, reports its “Biggest ever Black Friday” with discounts including: “Save up to 60% off”, “Better than half price” and “Unmissable electrical beauty offers”. At the bottom of the page, consumers are provided with information on delivery which is free click and collect or free home delivery on orders over £25.
Black Friday is advised as being six days long (23rd – 29th Nov) at Tesco. However, it is not immediately obvious that the grocer is participating in Black Friday weekend from its ecommerce home page. Discounts range from a third off Christmas lights, through to half price electricals. All Black Friday offers are only accessible to Club Card members.
Black Friday is very central to the John Lewis homepage this year, with deals on brands including 30% off All Saints, 20% off Barbour and up to £54 savings on Apple Airpods, says Lovethesales.com. The department store also displays its sustainability promise at the bottom of the page, as well as information on shipping prices and membership.
Currys’ website notes: “It’s Black Fri-yay! “You won’t get it cheaper. Full stop.” and offers up to 60% to customers. At the top of the landing page options include free delivery, 24/7 live shopping and free order and collect in an hour. Top pick products for Black Friday are featured as shoppers scroll down the page.
Currys says its biggest Black Friday sellers have included games console software, Apple accessories and virtual reality devices. That extends some of the trends seen so far this month, with sales of smart home products (+2,327%), games console software (+580%), headphones (+414%), Windows laptops (+247%), large screen TVs (+285%) an smart fitness and wearable devices (+1,343%) all well ahead of the same time in October 2021.
Ed Connolly, chief commercial officer at Currys, says: “This Black Friday for consumers it’s all about hybrid working and living.
“Post lockdown consumers want products that can improve their health and wellness, home security and entertainment needs. They also want to know which smart home appliances can give them the freedom to do the mundane tasks when it suits them, while also hoping they can reduce their energy bills and being climate conscious.”
Shoppers can receive up to 80% off everything, as well as an additional 15% off with the code: BFdeal15, according to Lovethesales.com. The final landed price of each product (excluding shipping) is automatically calculated and shoppers are told how much they’re saving. Customers are required to spend a minimum of £30 for Black Friday discounts to apply.
Fashion retailer Boohoo is giving its customers up to 99% off everything in its “biggest yet” Black Friday sale. Additional promotions include a £5 and under section, as well as free unlimited next day delivery with all Klarna orders. It also says those who download the app will gain access to exclusive deals.
Pretty Little Thing
Pretty Little Thing is claiming to offer up to 100% off everything on its website as part of what it has coined “Pink Friday”. The retailer’s landing page notes that this super-saver deal is limited to one per order. From a customer perspective, however, it is unclear which items are included in this offer and how to redeem it at the checkout.
SHEIN’s Black Friday sale includes up to 85% off with free shipping and no minimum spend. Upon visiting the website, customers are presented with numerous promotions which can be redeemed by creating an account or signing in. Amongst this plethora of pop-up discounts, the fast-fashion brand gives shoppers the chance to “win” their order for free.
eBay detects pent-up demand
eBay says it’s seen shoppers spending more on Black Friday than they did yesterday. The average selling price rose 54% to £70. This, says eBay, suggests people have been holding out for big bargains on Black Friday itself – but that they do have the resources to spend.
The site saw traffic peak bdetween noon and 2pm yesterday, suggesting that shoppers were browsing during their lunch breaks. Ahead of Black Friday, eBay’s own data suggested that 77% of UK shoppers would buy for Christmas during the course of today.
Murray Lambell, general manager of eBay UK, says: “Our home and garden sellers have been the big winners during the Black Friday period so far. Consumers have been capitalising on deals for refurbished and upcycled home goods, with a certified refurbished Dyson fan sold every minute on eBay UK.
“With more people making a return to office life this year, we’ve also started to see more typical patterns for Black Friday sales spending. Last year, we saw the first sales traffic peak on eBay UK at 9am, but this year, on the eve of Black Friday, most consumers were browsing deals on our site over their lunch hour.”
Other trends so far include the sale of two Adele CDs every minute today, while high performing searches over the last month have included ‘stocking fillers’ (+121%), ‘gifts for him’ (+62%) and ‘gifts for her’ (+48%).
So far, shoppers appear to be spending faster this Black Friday than they did last year – perhaps tempted by more offers being available, although these may not be as generous as they were a year ago.
Barclaycard Payments says that between midnight and 9am today, it saw transactions – both online and in-store – running 21.4% higher than on Black Friday 2020, and 5.4% higher than in 2019. The company boasts processing £1 in every £3 spent in the UK on credit and debit cards.
Meanwhile, fashion marketplace LovetheSales.com says that more Black Friday deals are available online in the UK today than ever before – and 42% more than last year.
It says there are 2.1m Black Friday deals online today in the UK from fashion, technology and home brands and retailers, as 38% more UK retailers get involved in the discounting event this year. These include New Look, which did not take part last year. However, the average discount is not as generous as last year, says LovetheSales, at 27% off – down from 31% last year. Currently, says the marketplace, the average discount on a fashion Black Friday deal is 36% off – well ahead of the average discounts available on beauty (-29%), homewares (-21%), toys (-16%) and electronics and appliances.
LovetheSales says online Black Friday deals are growing by a third each year – but in-store shopping is down at the same time, especially since retailers moved deals online in view of today’s London tube strike. It sees retailers pushing sales through mobile and app shopping in particular, a year after these channels were so important last Black Friday.
Rising costs: skills shortages
Some warehouse workers in London will be taking home more than £22 an hour from a shift today, according to flexible worker online marketplace Indeed Flex. It says there have been 42% more shifts available this Black Friday for temporary staff in warehouses and in distribution, with hourly rates reaching a peak of £22.18. Demand is strongest for delivery drivers with three times (+226%) more shifts having been available in the week leading up to Black Friday than at the same time last year.
Average hourly salaries have also risen in other parts of the country, but not by so much as in London. In Great Manchester, for example, temporary warehouse staff are now being paid £10.04 an hour, 40% up on £7.16 a year ago. That’s come as job vacancies rose to 1.17m in October – 388,000 higher than before the pandemic.
Novo Constare, chief operating officer and co-founder of Indeed Flex, says: “For many retailers and their supply chains, the Black Friday boom and the weeks leading up to Christmas are ‘make or break’ time. But this November the acute lack of staff is holding many businesses back and risks derailing their sales at the most important time of the year. Many of the staff shortages have been months in the making. Driving jobs have got progressively harder to fill since lockdown restrictions began to ease in spring, and we’ve recently seen many forward-thinking employers switch their staffing strategy to include a much higher proportion of temporary workers.”
Black Friday disruption: from Amazon fulfilment centres to London tube lines
Extinction Rebellion has marked Black Friday by blockading 15 Amazon fulfilment centres in the UK and Europe – of which 13 are in the UK. Amazon says the UK sites that it has targeted x- including Doncaster, Darlington, Bristol, Tilbury and Milton Keynes – account for just over 50% of Amazon’s deliveries in the UK. The groups are using bamboo structures, lock-ons, banners and – in Tilbury – a rocket part with a Jeff Bezos figure with the words ’To extinction and beyond’ written on its side – to block depot entrances. The group plans to stay for at least 48 hours as it protests the obsession with overconsumption that it says Black Friday represents.
Extinction Rebellion says: “Amazon and companies like it have capitalised on our desire for convenience and stoked rampant consumerism at the expense of the natural world, trapping consumers inside a cycle of buying our way to oblivion.”
An Amazon spokesperson says: “At Amazon, we take our responsibilities very seriously. That includes our commitment to be net zero carbon by 2040 – 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement – providing excellent pay and benefits in a safe and modern work environment, and supporting the tens of thousands of British small businesses who sell on our store. We know there is always more to do, and we’ll continue to invent and invest on behalf of our employees, customers, small businesses and communities in the UK. We’re proud to have invested £32bn in the UK since 2010, creating 10,000 new permanent jobs across the country this year alone, and generating a total UK tax contribution of £1.55bn in 2020.”
The retailer says it is on a path to 100% renewable energy by 2025, and is the largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy in both the UK and the world. In the UK it is operating its first renewable energy project in Scotland on the Kintyre Pennisula, and has solar rooftops at 20 sites including Tilbury, while 100,000 electric delivery vehicles are currently on order.
Commenting, Dr Jackie Mulligan,founder of local online shopping platform, Shoplocalonline.org says: “The anti-Black Friday movement has been building for some time and so this latest move by Extinction Rebellion doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Black Friday is bad news for the environment full stop, which is why we’re encouraging people to shop locally with small independents this Christmas rather than with the online giants, where products are often imported from the other side of the world. Wherever possible, we should all try and make Black Friday a Green Friday. Visiting the small independents on your local high street not only reduces your carbon footprint compared to buying through Amazon but will also give them some much needed rocket fuel, rather than blast billionaires into space.”
In London, there’s disruption on London Underground tube lines as strike action takes place in a dispute about Night Tube agreements. The RMT union has instructed train operator and instructor operator members on the Central, Jubilee, Northern, Piccadilly and Victoria lines not to turn up for work between 4.30am today and 4.29am tomorrow morning.
RMT general secretary Mick Lynch says: “This strike action, and it’s serious consequences in the run up to Christmas, was avoidable if the Tube management hadn’t axed dedicated Night Tube staff and perfectly workable arrangements in order to cut staffing numbers and costs.”
TfL is advising travellers to check before travelling, and says it will do everything it can to provide other transport options. But there are fears are that shops in the capital may be emptier this Black Friday.
Nick Dent, director of London Underground customer operations, says: “If the RMT refuses to engage with us and carries out its unnecessary action, which is timed to cause maximum disruption for our customers looking to enjoy London during the festive season, Londoners are advised to check before they travel on days of planned strike action.’
Fashion online marketplace LovetheSales.com says it’s seeing retailers shift their Black Friday deals online, with more than 100,000 deals added online by early yesterday. It has polled more than 2,000 London adults to find out how the strike would affect their Black Friday shopping habits – and found that 79% will now only buy online, with 10% set to buy in-store only, and 11% doing both.
The run-up to Black Friday
The final pre-Black Friday findings from etail association IMRG, reported yesterday, suggest that more retailers have started offering Black Friday-specific discounts every week in November. This week – up to November 24 – just under 200 of the 300 retailers that its research tracks have run Black Friday campaigns. While this the largest number so far – up from just over 150 last week – it’s still less than the 220 or so that took part in last year’s event, which was a largely online-only one as non-essential retailers had to close for most of November 2021. Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says the pattern discounting this year may be affected by whether retailers have goods in stock.
And Love the Sales said on Tuesday that there were 35% more online retailers offering Black Friday discounts than a year earlier, with retailers including Asos, Ikea and Levi’s offering Black Friday sales earlier than before.