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Black Friday in the UK
Black Friday falls on the 25th November this year, but the date changes every year - because it is the Friday immediately after the American holiday of Thanksgiving. The tradition originated in the US, with some states even celebrating the day as an official public holiday. In fact, Black Friday has been the busiest shopping day of the year every single year since 2005 across America, showing that the very best deals are within reach and the popularity is only growing.
It also officially marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season, with people happily scooping up the best deals to save on the big ticket items for friends and family members. The UK truly took Black Friday to heart in 2014, when major retailers like ao.com, Very.co.uk, John Lewis and Argos put their very best offers on the table this early to entice shoppers before the Christmas season - and ever since, more and more retailers have made sure to take part.
The modern incarnation of Black Friday - especially here in the UK - is a primarily online event, with the majority of brands focusing on fantastic digital offers rather than pushing customers to traipse around the stores (and ensuring the ugly scenes of shoppers clashing and stores heaving are avoided). In fact, Black Friday 2016 saw online sales hit £1.23bn, up 12.2% year on year.
That's after Black Friday 2015 already saw online sales increase 36% year on year.
Retailers also received over 16% more orders over the Black Friday period in 2015 than in 2014 - and that isn’t including the improved offers throughout the period preceding Black Friday, with many retailers choosing to extend their sales and push the period as a major pre-Christmas shopping occasion.
Black Friday deals can vary wildly. America made Black Friday famous with ludicrously cheap deals on high-end electronics items like TVs, and you’ll still find some very competitive offers for tablets, laptops and phones across the Black Friday weekend. However, with more and more brands taking Black Friday to heart, you’re more likely to get sitewide offers, allowing you to grab 10-20% off many popular brands and full ranges, as opposed to individual items. The period is also notorious for ‘flash sales’, where certain items are offered for a short time period for unique prices. Amazon’s ‘Lightning Deals’ are the perfect example, offering secret prices on heaps of products and even Amazon Prime exclusive deals to users who keep an eye on the site throughout the Black Friday period.
The Best Black Friday Deals
Black Friday is notorious for helping you save money in certain industries and on certain types of product. So, when it comes to a Black Friday discount code, you're best off looking in certain areas:
- Electronics - obviously, this is one of the key focuses for the biggest Black Friday deals. Whether it be ridiculously cheap deals on the biggest brand name laptops or tablets, or some of the more niche and trendy items like fitness trackers and other small appliances, you'll be awash with electronics deals across the Black Friday weekend.
- Gaming - video games are another massive sector across Black Friday, with the latest consoles and big pre-Christmas releases boarding the hype train and riding off into the gaming sunset. Metaphorically.
- Women's Fashion - not to say that the men are left scrounging for deals, but women's fashion is notorious for a couple of bargain deals across the Black Friday weekend. Not that you ever need to leaveyour house, mind you, as many brands will offer flat percentage codes to indulge in across the shopping spree that is Black Friday.
- Fragrances - beauty and women's fragrances are all the rage around Black Friday, with many individual beauty brands and major health and beauty retailers pulling out all the stops to attract customers, particularly with Christmas looming on the horizon.
- Home Appliances - the big ticket items often come in at a cut-price cost, with washing machines, dishwashers and coffee machines among the items up for grabs for less.
Some brands have even revealed the most popular deals from their own customers across the Black Friday period. Currys highlighted that LG and Samsung TVs, coffee machines, Dyson vacuum cleaners and HP laptops were among their most popular products - and that 48% of visitors did so via a mobile device.
Where did 'Black Friday' come from?
The term 'Black Friday' was coined by the Philadelphia Police Department. When the weekend after Black Friday began to mark the start of the holiday shopping season, the mass of shoppers and traffic combined with the annual army-navy American Football game, making the roads gridlocked and bringing chaos to the streets. At some point in the 1950s or 1960s, the Philadelphia Police Department referred to the day after Thanksgiving as 'Black Friday', and when the consumer holiday continued to grew the term was adopted as a positive, instead of negative, term.
In fact, some date the term back to 1966, when Earl Apfelbaum, a dealer in rare stamps, was the first person to use the term to refer to the smog, traffic and chaos of the day (relating it back to the opinion of the Philadelphia Police Department).
The meaning of the term is not, as many believe, derived from slavery, or from brands trying to get 'in the black' - make a profit - in the weekend after Thanksgiving.
When do Black Friday sales start?
Despite the fact that, by definition, Black Friday is a one-day event, the sales are increasingly spreading out to the week preceding Black Friday and across the whole of the Black Friday weekend.
The full black Friday weekend - including Cyber Monday - will tend to feature sales from across a number of brands, though the majority of the one-off deals and crazy savings that Black Friday is known for will be released either on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.
Many brands also like to start sales in the week preceding Black Friday and across Thanksgiving in the US, as it allows them to make the most of the hype surrounding the beginning of the holiday season and the most of the shopping hype in the build-up to one of the biggest shopping weekends of the year.
With websites typically crashing under heavy one-day loads, and it be remarkably risky for brands to offer all their best deals on a single day, many retailers are embracing the extended Black Friday week and weekend and encouraging this extended shopping behaviour.
As a shopper, it's best to simply shop around and work out beforehand what you think a good deal would be for a certain product you're looking for. This way, you know what a good price will be in advance and won't get seduced by a claim of a sale that isn't all its cracked up to be.
Do Airlines have Black Friday sales?
Some airlines offer Black Friday sales, but the deals aren't hugely competitive. The majority of the deals come on flights that are already very cheap - £50 one-way to a destination across Europe, for example - meaning that even a 50% off code will only save you £25 before any taxes or booking fees are notched onto the price.
With Black Friday typically focusing on household products or electrical goods, it's understandable that many shoppers want the savings to extend to everything else - including holidays. However, you'll have to have your eyes peeled for quality hotel deals and have dates in mind, otherwise you'll struggle to find a flight that's cheap, flies to a destination you want, and suits your timetable.
Does my favourite brand have a Black Friday Sale?
Most of the major UK retailers have started taking part in Black Friday, ensuring they have some strong deals out there to attract customers - often because if they don't, shoppers will simply go elsewhere! You can view some examples of the kinds of brands that offer discounts, and the black friday vouchers on offer last year, below:
- Debenhams - Up to half Price Brand Event + 10% Off Order over £30
- New Look - 15% Off Orders
- Groupon - 20% off Local Deals
- Nike - Extra 30% off Orders in the up to 30% off Sale
- Selfridges - 20% off Orders (10% off Fragrance and Beauty)
- The Body Shop - 40% off two or more Items
- ASOS - 30% off Partywear Orders
- SportsDirect - Extra £10 off Orders over £50
- Marks & Spencer - Up to 50% off Selected Items
- Hotel Chocolat - 10% off Orders over £15
- Amazon - Up to 80% off Selected Items
- eBuyer - Exclusive 5% off all Gadgets and Gifts
Black Friday Stats - 2016
Interest in Black Friday is continually on the rise across the UK, and the sales figures are reflecting that - records are being broken every year, and digital sales are only increasing. In fact:
- £1.23bn was spent on Black Friday in 2016, up 12.2% year on year.
- Black Friday week - Monday to Monday – generated a £6.45bn total spend.
- The Black Friday figure was 4.8% below forecasts (a predicted £6.77bn) but still highlights massive growth. However, the Black Friday week figures (Monday-Thursday) showed growth of ~30%, with shoppers converting at a higher rate than on Black Friday itself.
- PCA Predict suggested that online sales rose by up to 25%, while footfall fell 7% on the High Street and 5% across shopping centres.
- In the US, Black Friday broke online sales records, with $3.34bn being spent online - a 17.7% increase year on year.
- According to Similarweb, desktop and mobile traffic to the ‘shopping’ sector was up 52% on Black Friday, and 81% in the four days preceding Black Friday, compared to 2015.
- Qubit also reported on traffic figures, stating that Black Friday traffic was up 220% compared to a typical Friday, while Cyber Monday traffic was up 155%.
- Equally, revenue was up 240% and 280% for Black Friday and Cyber Monday respectively.
- According to ChannelAdvisor, more than three in five purchases were completed via a mobile device.
We even conducted some of our own research here at vouchercloud, sharing that shoppers were truly waking up early to make the most of deals. Compared to a typical shopping day, there was a 46% increase in pre-6am traffic on Black Friday:
- Midnight: +4.4%
- 1am: +72.6%
- 2am: +64.99%
- 3am: +77.52%
- 4am: +92.91%
- 5am: +208.08%
- 6am: +26.69%
Black Friday Stats - 2015
- Shoppers spent over £3.3 billion in the UK over Black Friday weekend in 2015.
- £1.1 billion of that spend was on Black Friday itself - meaning ⅔ of sales are being made across the rest of the weekend.
- In fact, £561 million was spent on Saturday and £676 million on Sunday.
- £3.3 billion over Black Friday weekend equates to £49 per person in the UK - including babies.
- Black Friday 2014 brought in £810 million - 2015 showed a 36% increase year on year.
- Cyber Monday sales also increased by over a third - hitting £968 million, up from £720 million in 2014.
- Footfall in stores was down year-on-year on Black Friday, according to FootFall and Springboard - down 4% and 4.5% respectively.
- 40% of all online sales came from mobile devices - an increase of 24% year on year.
- However, US research suggested that the average sales per customer were down, dropping to $123.45 from $125.24 in 2014.
- Even Cyber Monday saw well above-average boosts; online traffic was 60% higher than on a typical day across 2015, and traffic between midnight and 8am was up 9% on the year before.
- Black Friday 2015 was Amazon’s busiest ever day in the UK, with more than 7.4 million items sold.
There were even some amazing insights from individual brands:
- Argos saw over 1,000 orders per minute between 8am and 9am on Black Friday 2015 - that's 19 orders per second.
- Currys reported seeing five sales per second at its peak across Black Friday.
- Maplin CEO Oliver Meakin reported on the “highest ever day of online sales” in their history.
We can also learn a lot about the importance of Black Friday based on search behaviour across the weekend; with so many shoppers now heading online for all kinds of product across the Black Friday weekend, there are some interest peaks and troughs to be noted (courtesy of PI Datametrics):
- Between 2013 and 2014, ‘black friday’ related searches were up a massive 1,117%.
- ‘Black friday’ as a term was searched 2,240,000 times across November 2014.
- ‘Black friday’ related queries were actually more frequently searched for than ‘Christmas’ related queries in 2014.
Another key indicator of success (or, as the case may be, failure) is the amount of downtime a site experiences during the incredibly busy Black Friday period. A number of sites went down during the busy period before 9am, and this can have quite the profound impact on profits:
- By 5am, the top 100 retail sites (according to InternetRetailing.net) were experiencing the same load as they would at peak time on a typical day.
- One in five e-commerce websites across the UK has experienced some downtime before 9am on Black Friday, including the likes of Boots, Argos and Game.
- ELC and Mothercare recorded the longest page load times, with 21 and 17 hourly tests on Black Friday showing a page load time of over 30 seconds.
- With John Lewis reporting it would be selling £45 million worth of goods via its website, a minute of downtime would technically mean a £75,000 hit to sales figures.
Black Friday Shopping Statistics
It isn’t just about the total number of sales or the massive spend across Black Friday weekend - the nature of the holiday changes the way we shop fundamentally, and has shown some very interesting trends in recent years:
- Roughly 70% of sales across Black Friday take place between 6am-10am and 6pm-10pm - pre and post the typical working day.
- Mobile likely accounts for 60% of traffic across Black Friday - though many sales will eventually be made cross-device (researched on mobile, purchased on desktop, for example).
- Black Friday actually sees traffic spikes at midnight, pre-7am and up until 10pm-11pm, showing that shoppers are hunting for deals throughout the entire day.
- Some of the highest 2015 search volumes actually dropped on Thursday night, indicating shoppers are trying to get ahead of the curve.
The weekend has also changed the way retailers behave, with some trying to make the most of the occasion - and others bravely, and perhaps foolheartedly, trying to avoid the occasion altogether. Asda is the perfect case study:
Despite parent company Walmart’s iconic status as a Black Friday pioneer in the States, they decided to opt out of Black Friday in 2015.
They claimed shoppers didn’t want to be held “hostage” to a single day of sales, and instead committed to offering improved deals across the whole pre-Christmas period:
“Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales” - Andy Clarke, Asda President and Chief Executive.
Instead, Asda saw a 5.8% decline in the three months up until the end of December, with Q4 sales being heavily impacted by the neglect of Black Friday.
Black Friday Trends - The Future
- New forecasts suggest UK shoppers will spend £5bn over the 5-day cyber weekend in 2016 (Thursday through Monday).
- Queuing systems are likely to evolve for - and be implemented more frequently by - retailers, given that website downtime has such a profound effect on Black Friday sales (86% of consumers would rather queue online than see the website crash).
- In fact, 47% of consumers would be happy waiting three minutes or more in a queue around Black Friday (courtesy of Traffic Defender).er).