Black Friday, one of the biggest retail events of the year, has kicked off the holiday shopping season with a bang.
The retail phenomenon began in the US, where it marks the start of post-Thanksgiving sales.
Amazon (AMZN) brought the concept to the UK in 2010 and it has since become a major shopping event in the country.
Analytics firm Springboard said footfall in UK retail destinations by 12pm on Black Friday was 7.2% higher than on Friday last week, but 24.2% below the 2019 level, before the pandemic hit.
The greatest increase was in shopping centres where footfall rose by 16% from last week, followed by retail parks where it was up by 10.7%.
In high streets, footfall up to 12pm was only 1.3% than on the previous Friday.
Despite a Tube strike in central London, footfall was up by 13.3% when compared to the week before.
Meanwhile, the number of transactions made by 2pm on Nationwide Building Society's debit cards hit 4.2 million, up 26% compared last year and up 25% from 2019, before the pandemic hit.
The figure is also 37% higher than an average Friday.
“As expected lunchtime saw a peak in spending with more than 1.3 million transactions made between 12pm to 2pm – equivalent to around a third of all transactions made so far today," said Mark Nalder, head of payments at Nationwide.
He said the number of transactions are up 26% on last year "where lockdown meant many retailers missed out on the lunchtime rush".
“With stories about supply chain issues, we are seeing more of our members starting their Christmas shopping early so they have everything they need for the big day," he said, adding: "We expect the day to get even busier into the early evening when people have finished work.”
Simply Business, an online broker of business insurance, reported that Brits are expected to spend more than £9bn this Black Friday weekend and a further £2bn on Cyber Monday (29 November).
It also urged consumers to support small businesses during this time, as one in five say they won’t survive 2022 without a bumper Christmas.
“Christmas is – quite simply – a lifeline for many small businesses. For more than a third, the festive trading period accounts for more than 20% of their annual revenue," said Alan Thomas, UK CEO at Simply Business.
“The vast majority of consumer spending at this time is concentrated on big retailers with eye-catching discounts that small businesses simply struggle to compete [with]. Yet the festive period is so important for independent traders – particularly this December after the extreme challenges of the last two years."
He said more than two in five SMEs still haven’t recovered financially from the pandemic, and which has cost them £126.6bn in total.
Meanwhile, a survey by money.co.uk earlier this year revealed that more than three quarters (77%) of UK adults had planned to bag a bargain during this year’s Black Friday bonanza.
“Shoppers still love a bargain, but, as we see signs of Black Friday weariness from some retailers, thoughts needs to turn to how best to engage customers and refresh interest in the event," said Erin Brookes, who leads the European retail and consumer practice at consultancy Alvarez & Marsal.
She said the number one factor is "how to bring back that feeling of exclusivity, where shoppers feel like they are getting a truly good ‘deal'".
Traditionally, retailers overbuy and then slash the price of stock to stimulate demand, leaving some consumers feeling as though Black Friday is just a clearance event.
She believes that by “value engineering" some product lines to create a special shopping moment, retailers can help build the momentum that makes Black Friday more than just a sale.
Business advisory firm BDO has warned that supply chain disruptions, product shortages and higher costs will mean retailers "won’t feel compelled to race to the bottom on price as they have done in previous years".
Rather, they will try to protect profit margins.
Sophie Michael, BDO’s head of retail, said stock handling and logistics operations are going to be tested to the limit from now until Christmas.
“While shoppers are conscious of the supply chain challenges facing retailers, this doesn’t mean that they’re going to be forgiving if their orders aren’t delivered on time. This is a significant challenge which will need careful management to avoid suffering longer term reputational impacts if retailers fail to get it right.”
Meanwhile climate activist group Extinction Rebellion targeted 15 Amazon depots across the country on Black Friday.
"Black Friday epitomises an obsession with overconsumption that is not consistent with a liveable planet," the group said.
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