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Fewer Christmas promotions and an end to the Boxing Day sales - PwC sales promotion tracker


  • Workforce shortages, supply chain and stock issues impact promotional activity
  • Fewer retailers participate in pre-Christmas promotions compared to previous years
  • Boxing day sales to be lacklustre as retailers try to preserve margin


According to new data from PwC, which tracks daily promotional activity of over 200 online retailers, levels of retail promotions in the run up to Christmas are lower than in previous years. At its peak, 72% of retailers participated in promotional activity on Black Friday this year, down from 90% in 2020 and 85% in 2019. 

Lower promotional activity is often expected in early December but the rise in promotions in the run-up to Christmas, seen in pre-pandemic years, is unlikely. A combination of stock shortage and a reluctance to put added pressure on an already stretched supply chain to meet delivery deadlines, are discouraging retailers from offering promotional offers. 


Source: PwC UK retail promotions tool

While the overall number of promotions on Black Friday weekend were lower, so too was the depth of promotions. Only 35% of retailers ran promotions of 50% or more compared to 43% in 2020. 

Source: PwC UK retail promotions tool

Boxing Day sales will also suffer as those retailers not discounting before Christmas may not participate that heavily - or at all. Around 10% fewer retailers have been on promotion in early December vs last year so fewer promotions are expected later in the month. The importance of Boxing Day sales have been declining for some years, particularly as Black Friday has grown, but they will be particularly lacklustre in 2021.


Source: PwC UK retail promotions tool

The categories that usually drive the sales post-Christmas are struggling with stock shortages. Furniture, electricals and home, which are traditionally promoted across the Boxing Day sales are struggling to fulfill current orders and so will struggle with any increased volumes from discounting. 


Lisa Hooker, head of consumer markets at PwC said;

“In previous years, retailers have taken stock after Black Friday weekend and reined in promotional activity - at a time when over 40% of us do most of our Christmas shopping - only to then build it back up as they head towards the Boxing Day sales. Retailers have less stock available this year so do not need to use promotional activity to clear seasonal stock before Christmas. 

“As we head into the new year, the challenge will be how they balance stock, manage margin and keep consumer interest. The winners will be those retailers with strong supplier relationships and therefore more certain levels of stock and supply.

“Ongoing covid uncertainty, challenges around Brexit and global border constraints suggest that current stock shortages will last long into next year. Added to workforce shortages and a supply chain still recovering from the pandemic, we’re unlikely to see a return to frequent and heavy discounts any time soon. Promotional activity is likely to follow the trends we’re used to seeing across the year but with fewer participants and fewer bargains.”



Notes to editors

PwC promotions survey methodology - 2021 update

PwC UK retail promotions tool:

Developed by the PwC UK Deals Technology team, our UK retail promotions tool web collects data each morning from a sample of 207 online retailers. 

It identifies whether each retailer is advertising a promotion on its homepage and the depth of its deepest promotion offered (e.g. 20% off dresses or 30% off toys).

“Everyday” and “targeted” promotions are excluded - these include 10% off for mailing list sign ups, free delivery promotions, year round clearance sections, voucher codes, and member-only discounts.


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Nicola Thorogood

Manager, media relations, PwC United Kingdom

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