Business development · 27 November 2015

Black Friday calmer than last year on the British high street

The West End was ten per cent busier than last year on Friday morning
The West End was ten per cent busier than last year on Friday morning

Analysis by consultancy Springboard predicted that footfall would be 11.5 per cent higher on 27 November than last year – but the first statistics to emerge have suggested that UK high streets were around seven per cent quieter during the first four hours they were open, according to Retail Week.

The New West End company reported on Friday afternoon that London’s main shopping area had been ten per cent busier than last year –  though the BBC pointed to the absence of a queue outside Debenhams on Oxford Street in the morning.

Black Friday 2014 saw police called to supermarkets when shoppers fought each other for bargains – while John Lewis reported the busiest week in its 150 year history.

Chain retailers planned promotions more cautiously this year – Tesco Extra stores opened at 5am rather than midnight to give staff more time to prepare for shoppers. And despite the presence of extra security staff in some Tesco stores, there has so far been no repeat of last year’s tumultuous crowds. The Financial Times reported that the Tesco Extra in Neasden was “deserted” on Friday morning. Of course, Asda announced earlier in November that it would not take part in Black Friday this year and claimed it would provide £26m worth of savings for shoppers across the Christmas period rather than “be held hostage to a day or two of sales”.

Small organisations have also been more restrained. Henry Morland, inventory management system Brightpearl’s chief product officer, said: “Canny independent retailers have learnt the lessons of last year. They are being careful about how they approach Black Friday. They have analysed their data and are being very selective, discounting specific products on specific selling channels, in order to strike a balance between attracting bargain hunters and maintaining margins.”

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, some commentators had expressed doubts about the importance of 27 November to overall seasonal performance. Diane Wehrle, insights director at Springboard, said: “Despite the uplift that the new ‘tradition’ in our trading calendar brings for retailers, there is limited evidence of the benefit for retailers over the Christmas period as a whole. Indeed, what we have already identified is that a key issue – and one that retailers should not lose sight of – is the likely hit on footfall in retail destinations and therefore on bricks and mortar stores that Black Friday weekend will cause on the following weeks.”

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Hannah Wilkinson is a reporter for Business Advice. She studied economics and management at Oxford University and prior to joining Business Advice wrote for Kensington and Chelsea Today about business and economics – as well as running a tutoring company.

High Streets Initiative