The Black Friday discount day is back with a bang this year with shoppers expected to spend almost £9.2bn next weekend – 15% more than in 2020 when much of the UK’s high street was in lockdown.
John Lewis, Asda and Currys said they were planning more deals this year for the event, which accounts for more sales than Christmas week, despite struggles with sourcing stock and recruiting drivers for home deliveries.
Some stores, such as Next and Marks & Spencer, do not take part in Black Friday and others are taking a different approach. Ikea, for example, is offering 20% extra in refunds on old furniture items brought back for resale.
Gary Grant, the founder and chairman of toy chain The Entertainer, said consumer confidence had been knocked by rising living costs such as higher food and fuel bills and shoppers would be eager to save money in the Black Friday sales.
“The consumer wants Black Friday deals,” he said.
While experts agree that Black Friday sales will rise, as families prepare to gather after the pandemic put a dampener on celebrations last year, there is debate over how well high street stores will fare in comparison to online.
Online spending is expected to rise by a fifth compared with last year, according to research by analysts at GlobalData for the VoucherCodes Shopping for Christmas report, despite the reopening of high street outlets.
However, Andy Mulcahy, the strategy and insight director at the online retail trade body IMRG, thinks web sales for November, and Black Friday itself, could be down as much as 10% now shoppers have the option to go in to stores.
This would be the first time less money was spent online on Black Friday than the year before in the UK since the event was first imported from the US a decade ago.
Concerns about online players’ ability to deliver goods and shortages of some ppular products, such as computers and gaming consoles, may also dampen spending.
Mulcahy said retailers were still upbeat, and for those with good stock holdings Black Friday would be a “banger”.
“They [sales] will be very high still, it’s just that those volumes are rationalising a bit following astronomical growth in 2020,” he added.
In the battle for shoppers rival stores have engaged in one-upmanship by launching deals well before Black Friday. Amazon, for example, started its sale nearly a fortnight ago, Currys launched deals for its loyalty card holders on 5 November and John Lewis launched its first 900 offers on Friday. Of the 317 retailers IMRG monitors about a quarter had launched their Black Friday promotions by Friday, a similar number to last year.
Jon Williams, the trading operations director at John Lewis, said the retailer was expecting a return to 2019 levels. He said sales were already ramping up by 40% week on week as shoppers prepared for Christmas. The department store plans to have 17% more offers than last year when stores were closed and a special “crisis group” will meet every day up to Christmas to head off problems with deliveries or stock supply.
Williams said that despite a shortage of drivers across the industry the company was confident of being able to meet demand for home deliveries as they expected more sales in stores.
“We expect about 70% of sales online and 30% in stores so that amount going through the shops should take the pressure off,” he said.
He expects strong demand for technology products and said John Lewis had worked hard to get enough computers in stock given the global shortage of microchips that had put the squeeze on availability across the industry. Williams said there would be “pockets were some suppliers of big brands are stressed”.
Grant said the pandemic had “trained” people to shop online, a trend that had been to the detriment of high streets and shopping centres. To coax shoppers out, The Entertainer will offer an additional 10% off to customers who spend more than £30 in its stores next week.
In what is likely to be a widespread problem, The Entertainer was experiencing problems with agency staff not turning up for shifts in its warehouses – even though it is offering retention bonuses for workers who stay on until Christmas.
“In the first three days of this week we have had 86 people not turn up for work and that has a huge impact on your productivity,” Grant said. “If we can’t pick it, we can’t get it on a lorry and the shop can’t have their stock delivery.”
TV: LG 55NANO806PA – was £899, now £599 (a third off) at AO, John Lewis or Very.
Laptops: Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch 2020 (Core i5) – was £1,999, now £1,799 (10% off) at John Lewis; Samsung Galaxy Book Pro 13.3-inch – was £1,099, now £949 (about 13% off) at Currys or AO.
Washing machine: LG F6V1010WTSE – was £949, now £749 (21% off) at AO or John Lewis.
Electric toothbrush: Oral B Smart 5 5000 – was £169.99, now £64.99 from Amazon (62% off according to the retailer).