The Business Times

UK retailers look to US Black Friday for Christmas lift-off

Published Fri, Nov 21, 2014 · 01:26 PM

[LONDON] Next week's "Black Friday", a traditional discount day for US retailers, looks set to be the biggest ever for British shops as more join in the promotional event to kickstart Christmas sales.

The Friday following the Thanksgiving Day holiday was named Black Friday because spending would surge and it would indicate the point at which American retailers began to turn a profit for the year, or go "into the black".

A survey commissioned by Barclays found that 65 per cent of Britain's multi-channel retailers plan Black Friday promotions this year on Nov 28.

Amazon introduced Black Friday discounts to Britain in 2010 and last year major UK store groups such as John Lewis , Dixons and Asda joined in.

Sales updates published in January showed it had a significant impact on Christmas trading. John Lewis reported an early peak in sales last year, which it said was driven by Black Friday, followed by a surge in the last 10 days.

Visa Europe forecasts that 518 million pounds (US$810 million) will be spent online on Visa cards on Nov 28, making it the biggest day ever for e-commerce in the UK. It expects a further 500 million pounds will be spent on the following Monday, Dec 1 - dubbed Mega Monday as prior to the rise of Black Friday it was the busiest online shopping day of the year as people spent their November pay packets.

"Following a jump last year, retailers are making a bigger Friday push this time round," said Visa Europe's UK MD Kevin Jenkins.

Last year Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, had Black Friday promotions online. This year it will extend the event to selected stores.

Asda's Black Friday event last year proved popular but was marred by fights breaking out among shoppers chasing limited stock in some crowded stores.

Sainsbury's, Britain's No 3 supermarket, plans to take part this year for the first time, with discounted prices on 13 product lines, including TVs, tablets, audio products and kitchen electricals in 485 stores. "It's a competitive market, so it felt right to be part of the mix this year," said Sainsbury's retail director Roger Burnley.

Official data published on Thursday showed spending by British consumers is growing less strongly than earlier this year.

Whether embracing Black Friday makes commercial sense for UK retailers remains open to debate. Analysts say it can delay autumn sales, pull forward Christmas sales that store groups would otherwise have made at full price, can blunt sales in subsequent weeks and also leaves consumers expecting more pre-Christmas promotions.


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