By Marie-Christin Hansen-Oracle on Jan 06, 2015
Yesterday in an interview with the BBC, John Lewis managing director Andy Street questioned the benefits of the Black Friday sales frenzy for the UK retail market. The famous US shopping event, which traditionally takes place the day after Thanksgiving, could have a negative effect on the Christmas sales period as well as put retailers’ back end operations, such as online deliveries, under pressure, he says.
Black Friday definitely became ‘a thing’ in the UK this year. On Friday the 27th of November, shoppers across the country pushed their way into stores in pursuit of the hottest deals – some more vigorously than others. Whether this type of sale brings out the best in humanity is an entirely different question - from a retail perspective, the results stood out: John Lewis reported its biggest trading week on record, with sales up 22% on last year.
Sales in the week of Black Friday outpaced the week of trading in the run-up to Christmas for John Lewis. The overall total sales in the five weeks to Christmas fell by 1.4% compared to 2013. Online purchases rose by 19% in comparison with 23% in 2013, suggesting Black Friday did indeed play a role in the fall.
However, these figures in no way suggest that Britons’ shopping habits are shifting away from the high street, as suggested by the Daily Mail. Black Friday highlighted the importance of the store (or how not to behave in one), and Andy Street believes that “the role of the shop is absolutely critical in providing the online sales.” In fact, click-and-collect represented 56% of online sales, overtaking home delivery, and pointing to the significance of the store in both online and offline sales.
The lesson we need to take from these statistics is that the key to driving retail sales lies not in one channel, but in the convergence of all. Andy Street believes having a store presence is key to winning internet customers, as they would often browse products in store before placing an order online. Or, as proven, purchase online but pick up in store. The experience of visiting a store and being able to feel and try products will not go out of fashion, however an increasing number of options and convenience means consumers don’t HAVE to decide on a purchase right away. Commerce anywhere, in our definition, is being able to blur the lines between a consumer’s digital and physical shopping journey.
"My personal hope is that this is the high water mark for Black Friday”, said Andy Street. “I don't think we can put the genie back in the bottle but do we need to stoke that fire anymore? I personally hope not," he added. It will be interesting to see how UK retailers respond to Andy Street’s warning. Already, googling “Black Friday” results in a message from Argos encouraging you to sign up to their email list to make sure you don’t miss out on 2015 Black Friday deals – crafty!
What do you think? Do we need Black Friday in the UK?