Strong sales preceding Black Friday offset softer growth on the ‘big day’, MasterCard data shows

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Predictions of slower momentum in Black Friday sales have been confirmed as MasterCard SpendingPulse data shows that growth of UK retail sales for the day dropped from 23.6% in 2014 to just 8.7% this year.

Thanks to retailers’ aggressive “early and often” marketing strategies, shoppers had access to Black Friday deals as early as the preceding Saturday. This contributed to softer growth on Black Friday. Sales on the days around Black Friday (WednesdayThursday and Saturday) totaled £4bn, representing year-on-year growth of 9.7% – exceeding momentum for the big day.

On Black Friday itself, UK consumers spent £1.8bn on all retail sectors (excluding fuel), according to MasterCard SpendingPulse, which looks at retail sales trends across card and cash payments. Sales of furniture, electronics, clothing and at department stores all saw greater year on year sales growth in the days around Black Friday, than the day itself.  The most pronounced shift was at department stores and spending on clothing; department stores saw over double the sales growth on the days around Black Friday than the day itself, and clothing almost double.

While still a minority share of overall sales, e-commerce sales growth was more uniform with a significant 37% increase both ahead of and on Black Friday, as an average across all sectors.  The exception to this was again department stores, they chose to front load deals and saw online sales growth of 42% in the days ahead of BlackFriday, but a much lower than average 22% increase on the day itself.

Mark Barnett, president of MasterCard UK & Ireland, said: “The growth in sales in the days preceding Black Fridayand days immediately after indicates a concerted effort by retailers to spread sales and avoid some of the logistical headaches experienced last year.  As a whole, the week showed solid growth but the question remains whether we will now see a slowdown in December’s retail figures. If the combined sales remain strong then this year’s strategy by retailers for Black Friday must be considered successful.”

“The extent to which retailers engage in offers and discounts to customers in and around Black Friday is becoming critical to their overall Christmas sales strategy. As the sales weekend gains traction, competition for customer spend is growing, and retailers will need to be smarter about their strategies. Trialing ideas in a few locations – and comparing them to similar locations that don’t receive a change – is the only way to truly know what works. Using these experiments, executives can remove the guess work from planning and know ahead of time which promotions, resource strategies, and operating hours will be most profitable,” said Rupert Naylor, of APT, which is part of MasterCard.