John Lewis’s update suggested that Black Friday has changed the shape of Christmas trading. Retail Week assesses the implications for retailers.
1. The new shape of Christmas
The rise of Black Friday has changed the shape of Christmas trading, becaue concentrated discounts around the weekend of November 28 has taken some emphasis off January Sales. John Lewis managing director Andy Street said this is the first year that Black Friday was the retailer’s peak week - even bigger than the pre-Christmas week.
What this will mean remains to be seen fully but Street maintained that it is “not in the industry’s interest to focus so much trade onto one day”. He said:”You want more steady trade and obviously you want more of it at full price”.
The effect may play out differently across different retail sectors. Street said that at John Lewis Black Friday discounts were bigger on electricals while the January Sales remain a “big phenomenon” for home furnishings and fashion.
2. An online shift
While the shape of Christmas discounting is changing, so too is consumer shopping behaviour. John Lewis reported flat same-store sales over the five-week period as online sales rose 19%. Retailers without a strong online proposition, particularly on click-and-collect, may report a weaker Christmas.
3. A logistics Christmas
As the focus has shifted increasingly to online, successful fulfilment is a cornerstone of a successful Christmas sales season. Street said that because Black Friday drove a higher proportion of online sales and customers increasingly demand greater convenience, there had to be keen focus on fulfilment, “making this a truly Logistics Christmas”. While Street said John Lewis successfully navigated this changing shape of trade, other retailers may not be so lucky. Many - including Amazon, Ao.com, River Island, Shop Direct and Debenhams admitted at the time that Black Friday caused disruption to their delivery networks.
4. Margins could be challenged
The knock-on effect of the rise of Black Friday may mean that margins could be squeezed at participating retailers because there were fewer full-price selling days in the run-up to Christmas. As Black Friday promotions were more intensively focused on electricals, retailers in this category may facr margin challenges.
5. The last week before Christmas
Many retailers were hopeful that because Christmas fell on a Thursday there would be a very busy final week, but Black Friday upset that expectation. John Lewis reported that Black Friday was its sales peak. So industry forecasts that Tuesday December 23 would be the peak Christmas selling day may not hold true for all. Shopper traffic slowed in the aftermath of Black Friday. Footfall slipped the weekend before Christmas. At John Lewis, Street said Monday December 22 was “mega”, while Tuesday December 23 was “good but not mega”.