UK interest remains divided as some consumers question whether deals are genuine
The Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend is one of the most significant shopping events of the year, and perhaps the most polarising.
It is a conundrum for retailers: half of the population still look forward to it, but the other half claim to be uninterested. Retailers can’t ignore these events, but they need to manage them smartly to avoid alienating a large section of consumers.
One of the reasons for this is that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday are more mature in the UK than in many other countries, a phenomenon imported from the US in the early 2010s. This year, we have compared our UK survey results with those from four other European countries and South Africa to see how shoppers’ intentions differ globally.
Read on to find out our predictions for Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2019 and what this means for retailers:
The weekend’s popularity in the UK remains similar to last year, with 52% of respondents claiming to be interested this year (excluding those that said they don’t know). This is significantly lower than in other participating countries, particularly South Africa (88%) and Germany (77%).
Shoppers in the UK are increasingly cynical towards the deals available. Of those spending less this year, 29% claim that the deals aren’t exciting and 20% believe that deals aren’t genuine. With ‘promotions’ now lasting a month or longer, or showing no significant discount compared with the rest of the year, these results are of little surprise.
Away from the UK, shoppers in the other countries surveyed excitedly plan Black Friday spending in advance, with many planning before November (e.g. 50% South Africa, 42% Ireland, 39% France). In the UK, 30% of UK shoppers wait until the day to decide what to buy, suggesting that the novelty of the event is no longer there.
Though we claim to be over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, just 8% of respondents intend to avoid it entirely, which is only marginally more than other countries. There is a still a large potential audience in the UK open to the right deal, under the right circumstances.
Those who are interested in Black Friday and Cyber Monday are very interested. This year, shoppers are intending to splash £21 more (up to £224) on average than they spent last year, with men (+£31) and 25-34 year-olds (+£41) expected to significantly increase spend. In fact, only two segments of the population expect to spend less than last year (under 25s and 45-54 year olds), with under 25s spending the least (down £14 to £111). This echoes findings in our recent survey which showed a significant decline in consumer sentiment among the under 25s.
This time last year, consumers had planned to spend an average of £234 on Black Friday 2018, but ended up spending only £202. It’s possible that last year’s deals failed to meet expectations, although the earlier timing (23 November 2018 vs 29 November 2019) would have meant it fell before pay day for many of us.
Looking forward to this November, there’s every chance that there will be even greater spend than indicated in our survey, with the events falling much closer to Christmas and just after pay day for many. In retail, timing is everything.
Interest doesn’t vary greatly across the regions, although it is highest in London (67%). Yorkshire (57%) also shows reasonable interest, with the East (42%) and Wales (44%) the least engaged.
Shoppers in the capital are looking to spend the most on average (£326), with some looking to spend more than £1,000. London’s average is twice that of Scotland (£155). It is, perhaps unsurprisingly, also significantly higher than that of other countries (France €253, Germany €254, Ireland €251, South Africa R3,812 (approx. €233) and the Netherlands €230).
Every region expects to spend more this year except the East Midlands (-£21) and South West (-£17).
A continuing trend from previous years is a gender divide over shopping habits.
Generally, men are more interested in Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals. They are also more likely to treat themselves, with three quarters (77%) shopping for themselves rather than family (62%). Of women surveyed, 71% intend to buy for their family, with 67% shopping for themselves.
Another striking gender difference is spending intentions across the categories, with men significantly more interested in electricals (67% vs 39%). Women are interested in a broader range of categories, including Christmas stocking fillers (29% vs 21%), toys (23% vs 12%), and health and beauty (23% vs 13%).
Women are also more organised than men, using the event to save money (62% vs 56%), especially on Christmas presents (47% vs 33%). With Black Friday closer to Christmas this year, we may see more interest in categories such as toys, children’s clothing and beauty.
The Black Friday weekend is now the major shopping event for electrical and technology retailers. It is the biggest category of interest for UK shoppers, with 53% of respondents showing an interest in buying electrical products. Germany (56%), Ireland (55%) and South Africa (55%) are similarly keen on electricals deals.
Internationally, there is also a strong focus on fashion. It is the top category of interest in France (53%) and the Netherlands (46%), and the second most popular category in Germany (44%), Ireland (42%) and South Africa (49%). By contrast, while it is also the second most popular category in the UK, interest has fallen from 45% last year to just 29% this year.
In-store crowds and queues from the early years of Black Friday have disappeared from the UK, with transactions now predominantly online (77%). Other countries - Germany (75%), Netherlands (66%), France (65%) and Ireland (63%) - also shop online more than in store. Only in South Africa, where half of Black Friday purchases are expected in store, are crowds still likely to be out in force.
Even presale research is now conducted online, usually on retailer websites (51% UK, 53% Germany, 41% Ireland). Consumers also expect Black Friday emails from retailers (31% UK, 32% France, Germany 29%) and increasingly use deals websites (29% UK, 37% Ireland, 45% Netherlands).
In recent years, UK retailers have been better prepared for the online rush, with improved website and logistics capacity, aided by spreading deals across different times of day, different days and even weeks. While this has reduced the delivery and website complaints of the past (with improvements seen as long ago as Christmas 2016), retailers should use their online shop front and email communications to encourage spending.
Despite claims to the contrary, there is still significant interest for both events in the UK. Certain sections of the population are willing to spend if they find the right deal; the challenge for retailers is converting those shoppers without alienating others.
Retailers can do this through selective and strategic communications, via their websites, email promotions or engaging with shoppers on social media. Even those not actively looking for deals may be persuaded to buy on impulse given the right communications.
For certain retailers, participation in Black Friday is non-negotiable; in electronics and technology, for example, where the Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend has all but replaced the Boxing Day sales as its most important promotional period.
For others, it may be optional. With only 29% of shoppers interested in fashion deals this year, for example, should retailers hold their nerve and ignore Black Friday deals altogether, or entice consumers through a limited in-store offering? Should they make their VIP customers feel special by early access?
As online dominates, retailers may consider differentiating between online and in-store deals. Offering increased discounts in-store could encourage shoppers to visit physical locations over online. Alternatively, retailers worried about in-store experience or managing shopper numbers could offer greater incentives to shop online, such as exclusive products or deals.
What has also become clear is that retailers that do participate in Black Friday or Cyber Monday (or both) would be wise to return products to full price immediately after the event. A genuine, time-limited deal can make customers feel rewarded, and may persuade undecided shoppers to purchase while they can. Returning to full price quickly and adding newness will entice and preserve margin in the critical run up to Christmas, with over 40% of us doing most of our Christmas shopping in December.
Especially where retailers have brought in products specifically, holding their nerve (and holding onto stock) in December may not be the most effective use of working capital, but may be better for overall profitability, particularly as stock can be cleared after Boxing Day and through January.
Our own promotions research showed more retailers doing this in 2018. The late Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2019 will be an additional challenge, with only three weekends left to trade at full price before Christmas, rather than the four that retailers have had in the past few years.
“As Black Friday matures in the UK, it is an increasing balancing act for retailers given only half of shoppers say they are interested but they don’t want to lose out to their rivals. There is plenty of opportunity for organised retailers who are brave enough to communicate offers to shoppers, manage stock and margins, and offer genuine and maybe selective, time-limited deals.”
The report is based on an online survey of over 10,000 adults from across the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Germany, the Netherlands and France. The survey was conducted in October 2019. The UK numbers are unweighted and exclude those who said “don’t know” or “prefer not to say”.