U.K. Black Friday online sales surge 135%

January 8, 2015 12:28 PM

Black is gaining traction in the U.K. At least, that is, when it comes to online holiday shopping.

U.K. online sales grew 135% on the shopping day known as Black Friday compared to the same day last year, according to a just-released report from U.K. e-retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group. Black Friday occurs each year on the day after Thanksgiving, which is not a holiday in the U.K., though retailers this year seized on Friday, Nov. 28 to offer promotions.

That’s much stronger growth than the U.S., which posted a 9.48% increase in online sales on the major shopping day that falls on the day after Thanksgiving, according to IBM Corp.’s Digital Analytics Benchmark. The benchmark pulls data from 8,000 brands and 35,000 e-commerce clients, according to IBM; it does not report dollar sales. Both IBM and IMRG include sales form mobile devices in their estimates.

The U.K. association says 2014 is the first year that the shopping day, well marked in the U.S. as a kick off the holiday shopping season, garnered such massive online sales activity in the U.K, where Thanksgiving is not a holiday. And, it expects the trend to continue into future holiday shopping seasons. 

“The Christmas shopping period underwent a pretty seismic shift this year, with Black Friday being cemented as a major event for customers,” says Tina Spooner, chief information officer at IMRG. “Heavy pre-Christmas discounting has become a factor in the years following the market crash of 2008, leading to a test of nerve for retailers as customers have held out on making purchases in expectation of snapping up bargains—and Black Friday has built on this by focusing so much attention on a single day of guaranteed discounts.”

But the news isn’t all good, Spooner says recent holiday sales figures released by some U.K. e-retailers shows some merchants resorted to slashing margins to attract customers on the big shopping day. 

“The Black Friday genie is out of the bottle now and, while it will doubtless be an even bigger deal in 2015, retailers will need to develop clear strategies for capturing their share of the sales while ensuring it is a profitable exercise.”

Yesterday the stock price plunged for U.K. web-only apparel retailer after telling investors it expects annual revenue growth to be 25% compared with earlier projections of 30% or more. Boohoo, No. 187 in the Internet Retailer Europe 500 blames the lower forecast in part to heavy promotion activity around the holidays.

Counting results through December, grew sales 28% in the first 10 months of its 2015 fiscal year to $179.4 million from $140.2 million. But the increase for September to December was only 25% to $77.3 million from $61.8 million.

Some others, however, posted strong results. At U.K. department store House of Fraser (No. 98) Black Friday online sales increased by over 125% over the previous year—up nearly 70% compared with the previous largest online sales day. Online sales increased up 31.2% for the six weeks ended Jan. 3, it says.

Figures from other U.K. retailers include:

  • At department store John Lewis (No. 10), total sales increased 5.8% to 777 million pounds ($1.17 billion). Online sales increased 19% in the five-week period, representing 36% of total sales, up from last year’s 32%.
  • Electronics retailer Maplin reported its best ever Christmas Day online sales.  Additionally, in the four weeks ending Dec. 26, online sales rose 24% year over year. Its Black Friday promotions also helped the retailer generate a a 72% year-over-year increase in online sales on that day and a 15% lift in store sales.
  • Apparel and accessories retailer Next Plc. (No. 15) says web sales far outpaced store sales over the holidays. Store sales increased 0.5% between Oct. 28 and Dec. 24, while online sales grew 7.5% for its directory unit, which is mostly online sales.
  • Grocer Sainsbury’s (No. 14) says total retail sales excluding petrol fell 0.4% in the 14 weeks ending Jan. 3. However, online sales over that period rose 6% compared with a year earlier.
  • At mass merchant and discount store The Works online sales grew 140% during the six weeks ending Dec. 28. The retailer attributes part of the web sales growth to its rollout of buy online, pick up in store, known as “click and collect” in the U.K.



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