Despite concerns raised by retailers last year about the impact of Black Friday on Christmas trading, it is being embraced once again.

As more and more retailers follow the new tradition of offering attractive flash sales, we’re expecting footfall to surge 11.5% year on year in retail destinations across the UK on 27 November – Black Friday.

Retail parks are forecast to see the biggest boost of 17% year on year, continuing the trend of a strong year to date. Following a difficult year on the high street and fluctuating period for shopping centres, welcome uplifts in footfall are expected, with an anticipated rise of 9% and 12% year on year respectively.

Despite the uplift that the new ‘tradition’ in our trading calendar brings for retailers, there is limited evidence of the benefit for retailers over the Christmas period as a whole.

Indeed, what we have already identified as a key issue – and one that retailers should not lose sight of – is the likely hit on footfall in retail destinations and therefore on bricks-and-mortar stores that Black Friday weekend will cause on the following weeks.

Black Friday is changing the shape of the Christmas trading period. The trend that footfall and sales start to steadily increase during late November with a ‘super peak’ in the last few days before Christmas has now formed into a wave.

This starts with an uplift in footfall on Black Friday weekend and Cyber Monday, then a trough with no major increase from week to week throughout December, rising to a final peak over the last week before Christmas. As part of this change, Boxing Day is becoming a less important trading day in the same way that New Year’s Day did years ago.

In the week after Black Friday weekend last year, despite a 10.6% increase in high street footfall from the week before, footfall dropped by 3.3% from the same week in 2013. The aftermath over the following week was almost as great, with an overall drop across all retail destinations from the same week in 2013 of 2.2% and of 3.6% in the high street.

Even possibly of more significance, is the impact felt beyond Black Friday weekend over the weeks up until Christmas itself. Footfall over the weeks following Black Friday weekend up to the Christmas week last year was 1.3% lower than in 2013, with the expected surge in customer activity only commencing the week before Christmas, far later than retailers have come to expect.

However, with Christmas Day falling on a Friday this year, the final peak is expected to be more powerful thanks to the four full trading days before. On Boxing Day, a day that has long been regarded by shoppers as a key opportunity to grab bargains, footfall dropped by 8.8% overall in 2014 and by 12.6% on the high street, compared with a drop in 2013 of 0.8% overall and 3.8% in the high street.

For retailers of course, with their propositions now becoming increasingly seamlessly omnichannel, with little distinction being made between online sales versus sales made in bricks-and-mortar stores, Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer unique opportunities.

However, we have seen unanticipated demand from pure-play retailers for a high street presence indicating its ongoing importance, reflecting the fact that 88% of retail spend is still made in retail destinations.

So, with this and with onerous occupation costs being a given, turning a blind eye to the impact of Black Friday on traditional shopping destinations could mean that a heavy price is paid.

  • Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard