Sales strong on run-up to Black Friday

Online spending on Black Friday increased compared with the previous year, new figures have revealed.

Supported by data from SimilarWeb, e-retail intelligence group IMRG found that an estimated £1.23 billion was spent online on Black Friday – a 12.2 per cent increase on the £1.1bn of 2015.

However, this was almost a quarter down on original forecasts, which had predicted growth of 16 per cent.

Although spending increased, IMRG claimed that actual growth in sales revenue was held back by a lower than expected increase in the percentage of visitors converting to buyers.

However, according to the figures, the four days leading up to Black Friday (Monday 21 to Thursday 24) experienced strong sales growth of between 23.4 per cent and 33.7 per cent, with increases in conversion rate much higher than on Black Friday itself.

For the whole week (November 21-28), an estimated £6.45bn was spent online in the UK, but that was 4.8 per cent lower than the predicted £6.77bn. Longer campaign durations, with new discounting deals promoted each day, helped spread the peak shopper spend over a longer period.

IMRG said this raised the prospect of a £7bn online spend week for the Black Friday period next year.

Justin Opie, managing director of IMRG, said: “Over the past few years, Black Friday has consistently demonstrated a remarkable capacity for shifting in terms of size and scale. In 2014, the volume of orders exceeded forecasts by over 30 per cent. In 2015 we had empty shops. This year, it seems to have become a genuinely extended period of heightened sales activity – taking place over a week (and more in some cases), which is not entirely dissimilar to the way that Christmas peak used to be online before Black Friday disrupted the established pattern in 2014.”

Nitzan Tamari, vice-president of marketing at SimilarWeb, added: “In terms of traffic on both desktop and mobile to the shopping category in the UK, we saw a jump of 52 per cent on Black Friday and 81 per cent for the four days leading up to Black Friday compared with 2015. While the overall growth in traffic is consistent with the general year-over-year growth in the category, it’s interesting that when you compare the traffic on the actual day, versus the day before, you see a smaller jump this year. This indicates that retailers are creating enticing offerings earlier and consumers are feeling less pressure to buy on just one day.”

Meanwhile, other research from Fresh Relevance, a marketing hub for online retailers, has argued that Cyber Monday is being phased out, as both retailers and shoppers focus on Black Friday promotions.

Fresh Relevance chief executive Mike Austin said: “It’s amazing to recall that only two years ago, Cyber Monday had more traffic than Black Friday. Yet, now shoppers seem firmly fixated on Black Friday Week and Cyber Monday has faded away. With all the changes in the UK and US this year, such as Brexit, the US presidential election and widely reported squeeze on living standards, it is clear that the appetite for a Black Friday deal remains strong.”