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UK retailers tap Black Friday hopes

News, 25 November 2016

LONDON: This year's Black Friday event in the UK is set to generate significantly greater sales than last year, not least as product prices across most categories will rise in the new year as a result of the weakness of sterling.

A study from consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) estimated that total spending on Black Friday and Cyber Monday will be up 38% on 2015 to reach £2.85bn, as shoppers seek out pre-Christmas bargains.

Not all retailers are convinced by the US import, however, and a survey carried out by Barclays Bank indicated that fewer chain stores are taking part this year.

"This suggests that parts of the industry may be starting to resist what some see as an unwelcome discounting event in the run-up to the all-important Christmas trading period," Ian Gilmartin, Barclays' head of retail and wholesale, told the Guardian.

But canny retailers believe that they can have the best of both worlds. "Black Friday is great, so long as you're good at playing smoke and mirrors on price," the finance director of one UK high street chain told the Financial Times. "We have done very well on the principle that we do not move on price until after Christmas," he added.

Indeed, recent research by consumer body Which? found that only half of Black Friday deals were actually cheapest on Black Friday.

Matt Walburn, brand and marketing comms director at Dixons Carphone, argued, however, that "Customers will sniff out bad deals and you have got to use Black Friday as a chance to offer something truly unique or you will fail".

He added that Black Friday "has become the starting point for the Christmas shopping calendar and, if anything, Brexit has made it more relevant as consumers are demanding more bargains.

"It will be our biggest ever day of the year, there's no doubt about that," he told Marketing Week.

Data sourced from Marketing Week, Sky News, Financial Times, Guardian, eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff