The retail sector is pinning its hopes on strong performance over the Black Friday weekend after a disappointing start to the festive trading season in terms of ecommerce performance.

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Retailers are hoping for an online boost from Black Friday

While many retailers pulled their Black Friday-branded campaigns forward this year to take advantage of customers looking to spread out their Christmas spending, the customer demand has not followed suit, according to data from IMRG.

The first week of November saw flat online revenue growth of 0.5% year on year, while sales across the second week of the month dropped by 6.2%.

IMRG said this meant retailers were “heavily reliant on Black Friday week” for the month to finish with positive sales.

In the first week of November, the gifting category experienced its first result in 20 weeks – up 0.6% year on year. However, IMRG said that in the second week of the month, the category slipped to 18.1% down on sales year on year.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says: “The signs so far in November have not been very positive and it means there is a lot of ground to be made up if it is to be a successful trading month for retailers.

“That’s not to say it couldn’t happen; it may be that shoppers are going to concentrate their spend more fully on this week in 2023 and there will likely be some big deals available if demand is slow and they find themselves a bit overstocked. Many will be hoping that the upturn in demand arrives very soon.”

Footfall slumps ahead of Black Friday

The latest footfall data from MRI Software (formerly Springboard) showed that customer traffic across the UK also slumped by 2.2% last week year on year.

While footfall across the UK rose by 0.4% week on week, adverse weather saw customers stay away from retail destinations last week, particularly at the beginning of the period. In the second half of the week, footfall was up by 6.7%.

Jenni Matthews, marketing and insights director at MRI Software, said: “It was a week of two halves as weather warnings were issued in the first half of the week, which will have likely discouraged consumers from venturing out. However, footfall rose each day from Wednesday onwards, with the week ending on a positive note for retail destinations as we head into Black Friday week.

“The marginal uplift in footfall last week failed to improve the year-on-year situation, with declines recorded in high streets and shopping centres and only a marginal rise in retail parks. This also meant that the gap from the 2019 level worsened in shopping centres and retail parks. However, there was a slight improvement in high streets.

“Across the UK, footfall rose in seven out of 11 geographical regions, although Scotland witnessed a significant decline from the week before as heavy rain and strong winds were in full force at the start of the week. Coastal towns and Greater London also experienced declines in footfall from the week before.”