Our latest shopper insight reveals that while Black Friday deals will kick-start Christmas shopping, retailers should anticipate a curb in spending through December and January.

The December and January sales period has traditionally been the most lucrative in the UK retail calendar, but Black Friday has dragged Christmas spending forward with shifting sales patterns resulting in margin erosion and disrupted promotional strategies for many retailers.

We surveyed 500 UK shoppers in November about their Black Friday spending habits. Our Black Friday report is free to download, it starts to explore some of the emerging trends, painting a picture of how UK shoppers have changed the way they spend in December and the impact on participation in the Boxing Day and January sales period.

Snapshot of the main findings

  • Black Friday deals will kick-start Christmas shopping with 69% of consumers planning to take advantage of deals and 62% using it to buy Christmas gifts.
  • But, 26% anticipate this will mean they will spend less overall in December with the impact on spending likely to run into early 2017
  • 28% of shoppers said Black Friday had made them less interested in the January sales
  • 63% said this was because the offers they could get over Black Friday and Cyber Monday were generally better

Disruption for UK retail

Scenes of frenzied shoppers battling for bargains have influenced our perception that Black Friday deals are shorter and deeper than other sales. Coupled with our desire for instant gratification this Black Friday could well be a retailers dream period as they get much-needed pre-Christmas sales in early.

But it’s not all good news. Consumer wallets are finite, so we could see December full-price sales and profits cannibalized. Another watch out is the discount strategy involved, if merchandise isn’t shifted how low are retailers prepared to go in the traditional Boxing Day and January sale period?

Retailers are also faced with changing consumer expectation of their brand dependent on if they choose to take part or not. A recent survey by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising reported a significant proportion of shoppers have more respect for brands that don’t participate in Black Friday.

Heavy discounting that takes advantage of the hype without any big idea that translates consistently across channels or that resonates with brand values will not strengthen brand perception. I hope to see retailers innovating, but within the boundaries of their brand. This means coming up with promotional names, events and special opening hours that are executed consistently and with brand relevance.

Black Friday has to be made relevant and meaningful to deliver a more sophisticated shopper experience and less of a battlefield. Let’s see what this year brings.


Download The Behaviours Agency Black Friday report

Sue Benson, managing director at The Behaviours Agency