PwC: shoppers’ appetite for Black Friday has peaked, but is it here to stay?


UK consumers are preparing to spend an average of £234 at the tills and online during this year’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping periods, PwC’s latest survey reveals.

Alongside the 17% definitely intending to buy something while searching for a bargain over the weekend, a further 27% are open to persuasion if the deals are good enough, the analysis finds.

However, it would appear that UK shoppers’ appetite for the promotional weekend may have plateaued. The £234 average projected spend for 2018 is exactly the same as 2017, suggesting demand has flattened out. Half of UK consumers also state they are not interested in the promotions, with 11% warning they would be purposely avoiding shopping altogether.

For those who are intending to buy, breakdowns show men are planning to spend £60 per head more than women on average. Meanwhile 25-34’s are the biggest spending age group, with a £278 planned spend per head, up by 17% compared with 2017. 18-24 year olds may be the most interested age group, but they have the lowest budgets and are the ones that have been the most squeezed this year, with their planned spend falling 20% to £181.

Lisa Hooker, consumer markets leader at PwC, said: “While our survey found that consumer interest in Black Friday has begun to plateau, it has still established itself an important and much anticipated shopping event for many people. As ‘practical gifting’ makes Christmas more virtuous, Black Friday becomes our one chance for fun and frivolous spending, and to treat ourselves and our families.

“For some product categories, Black Friday is set to become more important than Christmas; most notably electricals, but also fashion, toys and beauty. So those retailers that have announced that they will not be participating in any discounting over this period risk their customers walking, or clicking, straight past to their competitors.”

In 2017 PwC predicted that Black Friday was fast becoming the new Christmas for electricals retailers. This year is proving to be no different, with three in five consumers stating that they intend to purchase electricals over the Black Friday period.

This year’s survey reveals a surge in interest in adult clothing, with double the number of consumers saying they will be looking for fashion bargains over Black Friday. This ties in with a number of well-known high street fashion retailers participating in Black Friday discounting for the first time in 2017.

Yet again Black Friday seems to continue to be the domain of the online retailer with only a quarter of all Black Friday spending expected to take place in physical stores this year. Time-pressured families are more likely to be turning to their mobile phones, with 35-44 year olds almost twice as likely to spend by phones as on the high street.

The good news for retailers is that 40% of shoppers do buy on impulse over the period. There is still a significant amount of pre-planned purchase, with 42% sticking rigidly to a list, but 33% have a list and plan to browse too. Most impulsive are the 25-34’s and out of all shoppers they are most likely to buy in store, presenting an opportunity for retailers to drive additional purchases.

Our survey also found that consumers are typically buying for themselves and their families, with only 20% of us buying most of our Christmas presents over this period. This will be a relief to retailers, many of which are expected to remove discounts in the run up to Christmas.

Kien Tan, retail strategy director at PwC, added: “As can be seen from our survey, the pattern of retailer promotional activity has altered dramatically since Black Friday was popularised in the UK. In the past two years, we’ve seen retailers launch special promotions in the weeks running up to Black Friday, before returning to full price for the key Christmas present buying period of early-to-mid December.

“Some retailers have worked with their suppliers to bring in special products specifically for Black Friday, in electricals for example. This has helped to stimulate sales volume and manage profit margins, and avoid the blanket store-wide promotions of the past. So consumers need to be act quickly if they find a bargain, as it may be gone come early December.”

Several large British retailers have publicly stated that they will not be participating in any Black Friday promotions this year, preferring instead to invest in year-round lower prices. However, with the survey finding that three in five under-45s are interested in the promotion and over a quarter planning to buy something, any retailer targeting younger consumers or young families ignore this event at their peril.

Hooker concluded: “As interest in Black Friday spreads to more categories such as fashion, we expect it to continue to be a much anticipated fixture in many people’s calendars. Retailers can learn from early adopters, such as those in electricals, about how to offer the excitement of discounts and promotions without eroding margin and cannibalising full price sales. But not participating in Black Friday, and not planning ahead for a profitable outcome, will only be an option for the very bravest retailers in the future.”