Nov 12, 2020
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Black Friday the biggest sales event for stressed global holiday shoppers - McKinsey

Nov 12, 2020

The pandemic may have turned everything we thought we knew about fashion and retail on its head, but some things aren’t changing. Black Friday will still be the biggest shopping event this holiday season, despite the unprecedented changes in consumer shopping behaviour and the reintroduction of Covid-19 lockdowns and restrictions, a new Periscope by McKinsey report says.

Photo: QuinceCreative/public domain

Consumers around the world may plan to reduce their holiday spending (with China the only exception), but three-quarters of all holiday shoppers surveyed say they intend to take part in at least one of the season’s blockbuster shopping events. 

And Black Friday is top of the list for 55% of them. That easily beats the 43% who were focused on Amazon’s Prime Day a few weeks ago and the 26% who took notice of Singles' Day on Wednesday. It also comes in ahead of the 39% interested in Cyber Monday and the 38% looking at pre-Christmas sales.

In the UK, Black Friday has overtaken Boxing Day (December 26) as the most popular shopping day, although in China, the home-grown Singles' Day takes the spotlight.

McKinsey spoke to more than 3,500 holiday shoppers in China, France, Germany, the UK, and the US and found that consumers are very budget-conscious this year and plan to cut their spending overall. And to help them do this, they’re looking for “blockbuster deals”.

In fact, 81% of consumers overall plan to spend the same or more than last year on such deals. That divides as 90% in China, 89% in Germany, 85% in France, 75% in the UK and 73% in the US.

But McKinsey said retailers should be cautious of heightened demand as “42% of holiday shoppers expressed a slight or significant income reduction” with 27% having less money in the US, 26% in the UK,16% in France, 11% in Germany and 10% in China.

The study also highlighted the early start to the holiday shopping season this year that was due to consumers being “burned by out-of-stock items, limited availability for kerb-side pick-up windows, and delivery delays that occurred in the spring”.

In fact, British shoppers are most likely to have started early, which looks like a good move now that England is in the middle of a November lockdown with non-essential stores closed.

McKinsey said retailers have responded to consumer interest with blockbuster sale days being extended to multi-day events, spanning a week or more, and starting earlier. But it added that “Black Friday events need to be sensitive to shopper anxiety”.

Some 60% of shoppers in the US and the three European countries are planning to take part in Black Friday this year (up from 50% in 2019). But “shopper anxiety and stress is a feature of this year’s holiday season that has come through in the survey”. 

McKinsey said “retailers should be aware of the issues and instil confidence in areas such as in-store Covid-19-safe environments, their ability to deliver a great experience at scale, stock availability, and deals that offer great value for money”. The survey showed an average of 24% of respondents are anxious and/or stressed this year, with much higher levels in the US and the UK (30% and 36% respectively) and stunningly low levels in China (5%)”.

It’s also interesting that in this most unusual year, brand loyalty “remains vulnerable”. Another Periscope report had highlighted that 40% of consumers have shopped with a new retailer this year and a third experimented with a different, often less expensive, brand. This is continuing imo the festive season “with only 12% intending to stick with the same retailers they shopped with last year”.

The researchers said retailers and brands therefore need to communicate to the customers that they have what they want and that “holiday shoppers have reinforced this” need, by indicating that “personalisation and social media engagement play a key role in their purchases this year”. Some 31% of shoppers say they will use social media for holiday research and ideas, and 23% say personalised campaigns could trigger a gift purchase.

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