Retail Times rounds up sales predictions for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas spend

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Retail Times has rounded up the black Friday and cyber Monday predictions and expectations for retail sales on the days set to launch the Christmas shopping season

Experian: online retailers should brace themselves for the busiest December on record, as UK shoppers plan to leave their Christmas shopping later than ever. That’s the verdict from Experian, the global information services company, which revealed it’s predictions for the 2014 festive season this week.

The Experian Festive Insights Survey, acknowledges the on-going significance of “Cyber Monday”; the first Monday in December, as a big day for online retail activity. However, it is no longer the busiest day for pre-Christmas online shopping in the calendar, with the second Monday of the month, dubbed “Manic Monday”, now claiming that title.

In 2013, Manic Monday (9 December 2013) witnessed a huge spike in online activity. Retail websites racked-up 120 million visits on this day alone, an extraordinary 10% increase from the 2012 level, making “Manic Monday” the biggest online pre-Christmas shopping day and that trend is set to continue in 2014.

Growing confidence levels in the standard of delivery services, including ‘click and collect’, is being recognised as a primary reason why shoppers are leaving it later than ever. According to Experian, retailers should be prepared to experience an even larger number of online visits than last year and should place added emphasis on the quality of their delivery service. The closer to Christmas retailers can guarantee delivery, the longer these bumper online sales will last.

Nigel Wilson, managing director, consumer insight, Experian Marketing Services UK&I, said: “We believe that the secondMonday in December will see a huge amount of online retail activity this year, potentially at the expense of Cyber Monday. This is because people are increasingly comfortable leaving their Christmas shopping later and later, due to growing trust in the ability of online stores to deliver closer and closer to Christmas.

“Shoppers will be looking to retailers to place an added emphasis on their delivery services, with clear messaging about distribution. Brands should be looking to make sure they can offer home delivery as late as possible in the lead up to Christmas.

“While we are confident in predicting that online activity will continue later than ever before this year, there will, as there always does, come a point where shoppers take to the high-street to pick up those last-minute items. High-street retailers should expect a big increase in footfall from the second weekend in December onwards.”

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The graph shows the comparison between online and offline retail activity during the Christmas shopping season 2013. Using Experian Hitwise and Experian Footfall data we can see a pattern of shopper behaviour, telling the story of how people shopped, both on and offline last year. The busiest pre-Christmas dates for online retail activity are clearly identifiable at the start of December, peaking on Manic Monday, before the online activity tails-off and the offline/footfall numbers steadily increase, as shoppers flocked to the high-street to get those last minute gifts. No more so is the divergence in consumer behaviour more profoundly demonstrated than on Boxing Day, where we see virtually no footfall and a huge spike in web activity, as people start looking for post-Christmas bargains online

Festive insights – The key dates

Black Friday – 28 November 2014

Black Friday is the name given to the last Friday in November that has become one of the busiest retail days of the year. Black Friday originated in the US, but in the past few years it has increased in popularity this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally falling on the last Friday in November, the day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday has come to mark the beginning of the Christmas shopping period.

Last year in the week ending November 2013, 1 out of every 550 searches in the UK was about ‘Black Friday’, and on the day itself (29th November 2013) there was a 19% Year on Year increase in visits to retail websites.

Cyber Monday – 1 December 1 2014

Cyber Monday is the term for the Monday after Black Friday. Like Black Friday, Cyber Monday has experienced an increase in popularity in the UK in recent years. Last year Britons logged just over 115m visits to retail websites on the day – a 9% increase from 2012.

Manic Monday – 8 December 8 2014

Retail websites saw a massive 120m visits on the second Monday of December last year, an extraordinary 10% YoY increase. This meant that Manic Monday was comfortably the biggest online pre-Christmas shopping day and it is expected to see even more activity this year.

Boxing Day – 26 December 2014

For the sixth consecutive year, Boxing Day 2013 was the single biggest online shopping day of the year, with UK Internet users making 129m visits to retail websites and setting a new daily retail visits record in the process.

With online traffic to retail websites increasing by 15% between 2012 and 2013, we predict that Boxing Day 2014 will continue this trend and will once again set records as the biggest online shopping day of the year.

John Pincott, European managing director, Shopatron, said:Beyond the sales surge expected next week and through to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the rising popularity of click and collect means we can also expect further sales peaks driven by online shopping throughout the second and third weeks of December.

“In fact, with Christmas Day falling on a Thursday this year and many people still at work until the start of that week, the convenience of collecting presents in-store may well drive and extend peaks in omni-channel sales right up until the final days before the 25th .

Previously constrained by postal deadlines, consumers are becoming more comfortable with the notion of ordering their purchases online, safe in the knowledge its waiting for them to collect in-store.

“Retailers embracing changing consumer demands and uniting their bricks and mortar with online stand in good stead to make the biggest gains in this year’s busy shopping season. This is an especially important lifeline for mid-size and smaller retailers looking to compete with larger stores and the online giants.

“In addition to encouraging motivated shoppers visiting local stores to make additional purchases, they can also add products to an online mix that are typically too challenging for delivery.”

eMarketer: eMarketer expects UK retail sales to record solid, if unspectacular, growth of 2.9% to reach £85bn during the 2014 holiday season. Gains will be fueled mainly by retail ecommerce, which will see strong growth during the holidays and account for an increasing proportion of total holiday season retail sales.

eMarketer projects that retail ecommerce holiday sales in the UK will rise about 17.3% this year, up from 16.6% last year. In total, UK retail ecommerce sales for the holiday season – defined as November and December – are expected to reach £12.8bn, up from £10.9bn last year.

According to eMarketer‘s forecast, holiday season retail ecommerce will account for 15.1% of total UK holiday season sales in 2014, up 1.9% points from 2013.

eMarketer estimates UK retail ecommerce sales will grow 16.5% to £52.5bn this year, with 24.4% (£12.8bn) of this taking place in November and December.

UK mcommerce is expected to grow by 65.6% this year to £14.2bn, accounting for 27% of total UK retail ecommerce sales, according to eMarketer estimates.

This year, eMarketer predicts, tablet retail mcommerce sales will hit £9.3bn, or 65.8% of UK retail mcommerce sales overall. That’s up from last year when tablets took a 60.5% share of mcommerce retail sales.

Karl McKeever, founder of Visual Thinking, said: “This year Amazon will run ‘Black Friday Deals Week’ – what started as a day has already become five. Have they learned nothing from shopper apathy towards the now endless barrage of price promotions in-store? Their impact can so quickly be diminished. Instead, traditional retailers should be placing greater focus on adhering to a handful of critical retail best practices to help decrease markdowns, increase sales and boost profitability.”

Shoppers are forecast to spend over £1.3bn on presents this weekend (28 November – 1 December ) in the UK, according to new research from RetailMeNot, the world’s largest digital offer marketplace and owner of VoucherCodes.co.uk. The study, conducted by the Centre for Retail Research, predicts that Brits will spend £556m on Cyber Monday (1 December), exceeding half a billion pounds for the first time.

Now in its ninth year, Cyber Monday has become big business in the US where the practice of staging flash sales online on the first Monday after Thanksgiving first originated. RetailMeNot’s research estimates that American shoppers will spend more than £1.3bn on Cyber Monday, a rise of 16 per cent or £184m on 2013 figures. In the UK, sales are expected to increase by 11.4% or £57m on last year.

The UK is by far the biggest market for Cyber Monday spending in Europe, however other countries are now beginning to embrace the shopping date. Cyber Monday spending is growing fastest in Spain and Italy, where sales are set to rise by 59.3% and 47.2% respectively this year. However, spending is expected to be highest in the UK (£556m), followed by Germany (£250m) and France (£194m).

“Cyber Monday is getting bigger every year and this year looks set to be the biggest yet, with Brits predicted to spend £23.2m an hour on Monday,” said Giulio Montemagno, senior vice president of international at RetailMeNot.

“With sales in the US now topping £1.3bn  on Cyber Monday alone, retailers elsewhere are vying for a piece of action and looking to capitalise on the shopping frenzy with short-term promotions and eye-catching deals. With retailers in Britain among the first in Europe to adopt Cyber Monday, the UK is now far ahead of other European countries with sales expected to exceed that of France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands combined on 1 December.”

Adam Kujawa, head of malware intelligence at Malwarebytes, said: “Users are always on the lookout for great deals, especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and just with any other time of the year, malicious actors take advantage of these desires by creating ‘click-bait’ ads or posting links to ‘the best deal ever’, always leading to either a survey, a scam site or even drive-by exploits.  Therefore, this time of year it is especially important for users to be vigilant when shopping online, make sure you only do your shopping at stores you trust, both online and offline. Avoid clicking on ads for “fantastic deals” or opening e-mails from unknown sources offering the same.

“There has been a lot of recent vulnerabilities disclosed for very commonly used software so users need to make sure and update their operating system as well as all relevant software like the browser, office tools and add-ons like Java or Flash. Finally, users need to have the tools to defend themselves in case of an attack, this means utilizing anti-malware software, keeping it updated and always running it while surfing the net. Additional tools like anti-exploit software can make an even bigger difference in the fight against online threats as it can protect the system before the attack even finishes.”

Rory Dennis, founder and GM of Amplience, said: “With the elevated number of visitors to ecommerce sites over Black Friday sales, retailers also need to ensure that the right content is available across all channels. Adaptive user experiences – content that automatically adjusts to different consumer devices – helps retailers give shoppers the consistently good multichannel experience they are expecting. When consumers have a wealth of offers to shop from online, a shopping experience that is efficient and seamless can make or break a sale over Black Friday, and convert customers beyond just the weekend.

“Over peak sales times like Black Friday where nearly all retailers are offering massive discounts online, product images should stimulate, seduce and drive the imagination of the customer. Shoppers should be able to imagine holding, using and owning the product when they interact with digital product media. For example, a high quality image can show an amazing level of detail of fabrics, making the shopper feel like they are there in store. With the increasingly high screen quality offered by today’s devices, retailers that don’t offer deeply engaging brand-led experiences with stunning, interactive imagery and video across all consumer devices will certainly lose out over peak sales periods.”

Dominic Trigg, managing director of Rocket Fuel EMEA, said: “It is clear that UK consumers have now whole-heartedly embraced what are traditionally US-centric shopping days in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as more and more UK retailers offer discounts and deals in the lead up to Christmas.

“Black Friday in 2013 saw a 19% increase in visits to retail websites compared to 2012’s level, while, Cyber Monday saw consumers log over 115 million visits to retail websites which was a 9% increase from 2012. For 2014, it’s expected these numbers will be exceeded as retailers like Amazon offer consumers great deals of up to 40% off to drive online transactions over this period.

“Currently online transactions account for 19.9% of total UK retail spend. However, online sales are continuing to grow in popularity with the UK expected to spend £107bn online this year, breaking the £100bn mark for the first time. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to be two of the biggest drivers in surpassing this spending milestone.

“At this time of year, consumers are on the lookout for bargains and are likely to pay more attention to online offers they receive.Rocket Fuel’s research has revealed that nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers pay more attention to online advertising during days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Shaun Collins, CEO, CCS Insight, said: “Mobile retail has become a staple component of retailers offerings. As the smartphone and tablet markets reach saturation point retailers have recognised buying on smartphones and tablets will be mainstream and drive significant revenues. Christmas is an incredibly lucrative period for the retail sector and with a mature mobile and tablet market in the UK, mobile-optimised Web sites will be an important differentiator for retailers and will push them to sharpen their focus on targeted marketing.

“The retail market is fragmenting at pace. Consumers have myriad ways of ordering, delivering and collecting their purchases and mobile has become central to this process. Mobile payments, individual store apps and websites are putting the consumer and their mobile devices in the driving seat, be it at home on the sofa, in store or on the commute to work.”

Benjamin Teszner, CEO of PrestaShop, said: “Last year large players like Amazon made a killing on Cyber Monday, but changes in shoppers’ perceptions and technology improvements are set to make 2014 the year of the smaller ecommerce store.

“UK shoppers increasingly want to purchase bespoke and personalised gifts for their loved ones. Smaller stores tend to be more agile in their production and shipping methods, often responding more effectively to individual requests from shoppers looking to make their gifts extra special. So, it’s the smaller stores that are perfectly positioned to take advantage of this growing trend.

“With a reported £450m being spent in the UK on Cyber Monday last year, 2014 will be a bumper year for e-boutiques.”

Verdict Research:

Almost half of UK shoppers set to take advantage of Black Friday deals

Retailers’ heavy investment in Black Friday promotions looks set to pay off,  as almost half of UK shoppers say they will participate in the event, according to new *research from Verdict as awareness of the US retail occasion reaches an all-time high in the UK.

Women most likely to spend

47% of shoppers say they intend to buy such a promotion this Friday, and women will lead the charge – with 61% of female consumers expecting to make a purchase. With many on the hunt for early Christmas presents for friends and family, we expect Black Friday to boost not only electricals retailers but also clothing & footwear players, with those already shouting about their offers such as Argos and Shop Direct set to benefit the most.

Black Friday better appeals to younger shoppers with 56% of 15-24 year olds planning to spend with this figure rising to 59% for 25-34 year olds. In contrast, mature shoppers over 65 are notably less interested in the retail event with just 28% of shoppers likely to make a purchase.

Black Friday is here to stay

Verdict expects Black Friday to become a permanent fixture in the UK retail calendar as consumer expectation and demand continues to grow.

“With many shoppers still not prepared to pay full price, resulting in high levels of shopping around, providing unbeatable discounts and unique offers will prove crucial on Black Friday 2014 to seize consumer spend,” said Verdict analyst Kate Ormrod.

“Given the challenges faced by many in the UK retail sector this year, Black Friday will also prove useful for many clothing & footwear players left with high levels of winter stock such as knitwear, outwear and accessories, following the unseasonably warm autumn.”

UK plans to shop early for Christmas

Verdict’s latest research also finds that 25% of UK shoppers are planning to make their Christmas purchases earlier this year compared to 2013.

“While many consumers have previously held out for deeper discounts in the run up to Christmas, this year they are more confident than ever that discounts will come through earlier, such as those on Black Friday, resulting in spend being brought forward,” added Ormrod.

Christmas spending will be strong, but not spectacular

An extra £2.3bn will be spent this Christmas compared to 2013 – a rise of 2.6%, reaching £90.7bn (£53.6bn on non-food and £37.1bn on food & grocery) owing to an improving housing market and rising consumer confidence. Online retailing will play a key role in Christmas shopping this year, making up £13.0bn of spend; with click & collect accounting for £1.6bn of online sales.

*based on Verdict’s online consumer survey of 10,000 UK shoppers in October 2014