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Black Friday shopping slows as lockdown sees non-essential retailers shut

·3-min read
Black Friday sale. Woman with tablet and special offer, big sale content
Barclaycard predicts a “Black Wednesday” on 2 December — the end of the national lockdown in England, with a surge in transactions expected to surpass Black Friday sales. Photo: Getty

Black Friday shopping in the UK started slow after the lockdown in England forced non-essential retailers to close.

According to data from Barclaycard Payments, which processes nearly £1 ($1.34) in every £3 spent in the UK — as of 9am there has been a 13.2% decrease in the volume of payments compared to the same period on Black Friday in 2019. But figures could still pick up as Black Friday sales continue online.

Barclaycard expects transaction volumes on Black Friday to be down year-on-year, with non-essential shops unable to open and retailers spreading out online discounts throughout the month.

It also predicts a “Black Wednesday” on 2 December — the end of the national lockdown in England, with a surge in transactions expected to surpass Black Friday sales.

CEO of Barclaycard Payments, Rob Cameron, said: “Black Friday has always been a primarily in-store event. In a typical year, about 2/3 of the transactions we process on Black Friday come from in-store sales, with the rest coming from online.

“This year, with non-essential businesses unable to open across large parts of the UK, and retailers spreading out their online deals throughout the month to avoid a bottleneck, it’s no surprise that transaction volumes are not living up to last year’s record-breaking highs.

“Instead, we predict that Wednesday 2nd December — the end of the national lockdown in England — will see a surge of shoppers heading back to the high street to hunt for bargains in-store, with transactions likely surpassing what we’re seeing today. As a result, the milestone that retailers should start focusing on is not Black Friday, but Black Wednesday.”

Separate retail data firm Springboard predicts a 59% year-on-year decline in footfall at bricks-and-mortar shopping areas on Black Friday.

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It comes after figures released last week showed that UK retail sales recorded a sixth consecutive month of growth in October, defying analysts’ predictions of decline as consumers began their Christmas shopping early.

According to Office for National Statistics (ONS) data, sales volumes increased 1.2% between September and October. But, growth was not split evenly between retailers, with online sales rising 5.8% and store sales declining 3.3% compared to February. Clothing sales and fuel sales remained below pre-virus levels.

Earlier this month, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) had also highlighted strong growth in its own industry figures, though warned many non-food retailers saw double-digit declines in sales year-on-year in October.

The figures reflect the period before ‘non-essential’ retail was ordered to close across England in early November. However, the BRC expects a shutdown to cost retailers £2bn of sales a week, with the trade body urging the UK government to commit to retail fully re-opening in early December.

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