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Shoppers out in force on Black Friday weekend, defy gloomy forecasts

Published
today Dec 2, 2019
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All the gloomy predictions about the UK’s Black Friday seems to have been wrong with early indications being that British consumers shopped enthusiastically and even visited more physical stores than expected.


Black Friday shoppers were out in force in the UK



ShopperTrak said footfall to shops was up 6% year-on-year while the Centre for Retail Research said £2.5 billion was spent on Friday.

The reason for this year’s success? ShopperTrak suggested that it could have been boosted by the fact that Black Friday fell a week later than last year, so it coincided with pay-day weekend.

That 6% figure is compared to Black Friday last year, which fell on November 23 and the figure compares to overall footfall for the year that’s up just 0.2%.

ShopperTrak was also predicting Saturday to be the second busiest shopping day of the entire Christmas period and said footfall rose 6.8% on that day. Meanwhile, Sunday was up 2.9%.

The company said that Black Friday weekend is increasingly important as a promotional event in driving in-store footfall. This isn’t just for the long weekend itself but “also in building momentum into Christmas trading, as retailers extend their in-store promotion strategies”.


Nick Pompa, global general manager at the company, said: “We know that shoppers are in the driving seat now on how, when and where they shop, but our data shows that Black Friday still ranks as a key day for bricks-and-mortar.” 
 
The ShopperTrak view was echoed by footfall tracking peer Springboard, which also recorded increased visitor traffic. Against a 5.4% footfall drop last year, this year saw a 3.3% rise on Friday at the stores it tracks, it said. That may not have made up the ground lost last year, but it was good news nonetheless given that another drop had been expected.

Its marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle admitted the news was a shock and that the company had believed many consumers would be immune to the appeal fo the day due to discount fatigue. 

She added that some discounts were so steep that they proved appealing and that consumers also started specific Christmas shopping early. 

It was also interesting that shopping centres saw the biggest benefit with a 6.6% uptick, compared to a 2.4% rise for high streets and only a 1.8% increase at retail parks.

But observers are closely watching what happens this month. The ongoing Brexit uncertainty and next week’s general election could combine with the better-than-expected Black Friday to suppress December shopper activity, some analysts believe.

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