By Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director, IMRG
With Black Friday officially occurring today (the UK market has stuck with the US date for the retail event, falling the day after Thanksgiving, which is the fourth Thursday in November), retailers will be hopeful of high order volumes on what, in recent years, has become the most frantic shopping day of the year.
But, over time, ‘Black Friday’ has stopped being restricted to a single day of discounting, with campaigns instead often extending over a weekend, a week, or even the whole of November.
So when, we may wonder, actually is Black Friday this year?
A few graphs are revealing in this respect.
Every day in November, IMRG are monitoring 300 retail sites to see when they launch their Black Friday campaigns. By Friday 15 November 2019, two weeks before the official Black Friday, 15 had already launched their official campaigns, with 7 ‘fake’ campaigns also running (using messages such as ‘why wait for Black Friday’, etc). A further 20 sites had changed suspiciously black, though without overtly mentioning Black Friday.
By comparison, on the Friday two weeks before the official Black Friday in 2018, only seven campaigns were live.
The next graph shows how many retailers had campaigns live on the Friday before the official Black Friday. In 2018 it was 44 of 260 tracked, while this year it was 87 of 300 tracked. By yesterday (Thursday), 211 of the 300 had Black Friday campaigns live (that is, official ‘Black Friday’ branded discounts; the number does not include any retailers who were doing non-Black Friday discounting).
So, with retailers clearly going earlier, are shoppers responding?
From what we’ve heard from retailers, Friday 22 November does seem to have been a big online shopping day. While we won’t be able to 100% quantify that until next week, the data which we do already have (Monday to Wednesday this week) has featured stronger-than-anticipated online sales growth.
This might seem like good news for retailers, as it suggests a shift in shopper demand following a tough year: three days into the eight-day period we define as the Black Friday peak, performance is far ahead of our 2-3% forecast we put out earlier this month.
Making those sales early in the peak period could be seen as positive, but there’s also a larger question at hand: what impact will this early spike have on order volumes later in the week (and, indeed, into December)? There would appear to be two possible outcomes here – either the Black Friday period is going to be very successful this year, against expectations, and deliver a sustained period of strong sales growth, or a lot of the volume has been dragged forward and will drop off over the Black Friday weekend, which has traditionally been the busiest period.
If that should happen, 2019 will go down as the year that ‘Black Friday’ stopped being on Black Friday.