NI shoppers are UK’s second-highest Black Friday spenders

Just over half (59%) of consumers in Northern Ireland are either interested or plan to buy something during Black Friday [Friday 29 November] according to research from PwC.

Shoppers in the region also plan to spend around 35% more than last year, an average of £183, as the global retail event hits the high street at the end of this month. The average increase across the UK is 11% or £224.

The increase in forecast spend in Northern Ireland during Black Friday is the second highest in the UK. 20% of local consumers say they will spend up to £500 on gifts, while 24% say they’ll spend up to £250 during next Friday’s event.

However the results, which come from a PwC survey that charts the opinions of consumers in Ireland, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and South Africa, also show that UK consumers are increasingly cynical about Black Friday deals. In fact, UK consumers are the least enthusiastic of all those surveyed, with just over half (52%) interested in the event compared with over 80% of those in Ireland (84%), France (81%) and South Africa (88%) either interested or planning to buy something.

This year has seen increasing awareness around environmentalism and the impact of ‘fast fashion’, as well as a trend known as the ‘Marie Kondo effect’, named after the popular lifestyle guru, who encourages people to actively reduce the amount of items they own. Of the Northern Ireland consumers who don’t intend to get involved in Black Friday, cutting down on possessions was cited by over half (52%).

Brexit made it into the national top three reasons putting people off buying in the sale, with respondents saying they’re now more financially cautious. Almost a third believe that the deals aren’t exciting, while 20% believe that deals aren’t actually genuine. Under 25 year-olds are particularly unimpressed by Black Friday, with the lowest projected spend of just £111, an 11% decline on last year.

Lynne Rainey, Partner at PwC NI, commented:

“Although Black Friday splits opinion across Northern Ireland, there’s undeniable appetite from those who enjoy bagging a bargain.

“So with shoppers’ intent to spend, there remains the challenge to stakeholders to attract them away from the one-click shop and back to the high street. It’s not only up to the shops to offer experiential retail and devise differential activities - a collaborative approach is required.

“It’s encouraging to see innovative approaches like the Belfast Coin - due to formally launch this year - which rewards positive behaviour by giving people money to use in local businesses and which could have a marked impact on the city’s economic growth.

“There are other examples across Northern Ireland of fresh thinking such as in Strabane with the Business Development Company gift-card, or in Fermanagh and South Tyrone where the council has provided free website design support to businesses launching their e-commerce platforms. While every high street faces a similar problem - there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It’s critical that retailers and stakeholders work together and get really creative.”

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said:

"While it’s become a firm fixture in the retail calendar, Black Friday is perhaps also the most polarising. We’re seeing growing scepticism towards the event, with nearly half of respondents claiming to be uninterested in Black Friday promotions, or avoiding it altogether.

"Some consumers doubt the quality of the deals on offer, with many seeing them as not especially good value or not worthy of interest, and this is likely to have been exacerbated as Black Friday deals have spread to the whole of 'Blackvember'.

"This situation creates an interesting conundrum for retailers, who still need to serve the 52% of consumers who are looking forward to Black Friday for deals, or as an integral way of saving money for Christmas without alienating those not interested.

"Retailers clearly can’t ignore the event and do not want to risk losing out to rivals, but they need to manage it smartly and inject newness (and reasons to shop at full price) during the peak Christmas trading weeks.  And for certain retailers, such as those in the electricals and technology sector, Black Friday is a non-negotiable.”

The survey also found an increasing gender divide in attitudes to Black Friday, with men planning to spend a third more than women (£254 vs. £191). Men were also most likely to be planning to buy something for themselves (77%), with women primarily intend to spend on their families (71%).

By far the most popular purchases are expected to be in electricals and technology, with over half of all Black Friday shoppers and over two thirds of men, aiming to find a bargain in these categories.This is true in other countries such as Germany (56%), Ireland and South Africa (55%).

However, consumers internationally are more interested in fashion, which is the top category of interest for the French (53%) and the Dutch (46%), and the second most popular category in Germany (44%), Ireland (42%) and South Africa (49%). In comparison, fewer than a third of UK shoppers (29%) say they’re on the look out for fashion bargains, which is significantly lower than the 45% who said this last year.

Having said this, a number of UK fashion retailers have mentioned that following a slow September month for clothing attributed to unseasonably warm weather, they will be offering some good discounts across Black Friday which may entice customers to spend more on this category.


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