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Nov 21, 2019
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Black Friday spend to hit billions, but predictions vary widely

Nov 21, 2019

The importance of the Black Friday period and the large number of consumer surveys/predictions that are released around this time both combine to mean that forecasts can vary wildly. And at the moment there are two predictions suggesting that Black Friday spending could range from £4.3 billion up to £8.7 billion.

Black Friday spend will be big but it's not clear how big

Analysts at GlobalData on Thursday said that “UK shoppers are set to squeeze more of their Christmas spend into the Black Friday period (November 25-December 2) due to expectations of heavy discounts, but this will lead to an increased strain on retailer profitability”. 

Non-food spend on promotional sales during the week will rise 2.2% to £4.3 billion, compared to a rise of just 0.6% for non-food retail over the whole of Q4. It seems that shoppers have been delaying some spending in order to take advantage of promotions, while others are pulling forward some of the spending they would usually have done in December.

Fashion & beauty is predicted to be the best-performing sector with a 2.7% sales increase. But that's not such a positive sign for the fashion sector as it might appear on the surface. In fact, the health & beauty segment is expected to be the top performer “while many clothing and footwear retailers are heavily discounting ahead of the promotional period”.

Of course, it all suggests that Black Friday is still an important date on the retail calendar, but the analysts also said the event’s appeal isn’t really growing and that 2.2% growth forecast is lower than the 3.5% seen in 2018. Given that inflation is currently running at around 2%, in real terms, the remaining 0.2% growth will have a negligible effect. 

Why is this the case? Zoe Mills, Retail Analyst at GlobalData, said that the sector is seeing “an increasing number of retailers discount ahead of the promotional event, often depicting these sales as a pre-Black Friday promotion.” This may seem like it's adding to the importance of Black Friday as a whole, but actually detracts from the impact of the event itself.

And there’s one big negative effect in terms of retailer profits. Mills added that while these earlier discounts “may ease the demand on logistics operations over the period, it will mean that shoppers demand ever steeper discounts during Black Friday as they expect something more from retailers during this time.”

GlobalData also said Black Friday falling later in the month this time will have an impact on spend over the period. In previous years, Black Friday weekend, which is typically the busiest period of the event (now often spread across at least a week), has fallen before the majority of UK consumers have been paid. In 2019, it will fall on payday weekend, ensuring consumers have more money (at the right time) to spend on the event.

And one factor to take into account is sustainability. Mills added that “while unlikely to have a substantial impact on this area’s performance over the Black Friday period, the prominence of sustainability concerns in 2019 will see some consumers and retailers alike shun the event. Deciem will be shutting its stores on Friday 29 November and French brand Fagou is supporting a Make Friday Green Again collective to limit what it says is a discount period that encourages consumers to purchase items they do not need.

“Its impact will be small in 2019, but as we have seen throughout the year as more consumers – and as a result, retailers – place greater emphasis on environmental concerns, shopping habits may begin to change in the future.”

Meanwhile, another study from VoucherCodes is predicting higher sales than GlobalData. It said British bargain-hunters will spend £8.7 billion over the Black Friday weekend, more than Italy, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands combined and around a third more than Germany, which will be the second-biggest spending country in Europe.

The UK is expected spend £2.53 billion on Black Friday itself, 3.4% more than last year.

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