LONDON — U.K. shoppers chose clicks over bricks on Black Friday weekend, with online retailers seeing the biggest surge in sales over the past four days.
According to PCA Predict, a company that services e-commerce retailers by processing online transactions and working toward improving the digital shopping experience, there was an overall 6 percent increase in online sales on Black Friday, compared to last year. The largest volume of transactions was processed from 1 to 2 p.m. British time via mobile or tablet, signaling a shift in consumer behavior.
“Black Friday sales have defied expectation. While last year many consumers shopped from midnight to 7 a.m. to bag a bargain, this year people took a more laid-back approach, choosing to shop on their lunch hour instead. Rising sales on Black Friday will help bolster hopes of a busy festive season, or ‘golden quarter’ for retailers,” said Chris Boaz, head of marketing at PCA Predicts.
“What’s really striking about this year’s sales is the level of shopping transactions made on mobile phones. Thanks to vastly improved mobile-ready web sites and slicker checkout experiences, we’ve seen an increase in traffic to mobile devices, with customers using mobile during peak travel times and after work hours between 6 p.m. and midnight.”
Both high-street and luxury online retailers embraced the Black Friday shopping weekend to offer discounts, free delivery services and to highlight specific categories in their offer.
Topshop focused on offering 50 percent discounts on seasonal products such as outerwear and party-wear ahead of the holiday season, while Yoox Net-a-porter said apart from partywear, hard luxury sales were a notable feature during the Black Friday weekend, fueled by the growing trend of self-gifting among female customers.
Brick-and-mortar stores did not draw the same enthusiastic response from shoppers, with footfall at shopping locations across the U.K. down 3.6 percent on Black Friday, according to the data analytics company Springboard.
Springboard added that the decline in footfall was bigger than the expected 0.6 percent drop, while the high-street saw even further losses with a 4.2 percent drop in footfall.
Springboard said the footfall decline was a result of a hike in interest rates and inflation squeezing household incomes, and the increasing knowledge among consumers that product will be further discounted after Black Friday. Also, some retailers promoted more offers online than in store.
London’s West End was among the very few areas in the U.K. that saw a small increase in footfall. Early in the day footfall was up 4.2 percent compared to last year but the increase dropped to 1 percent following reports of gunshots at Oxford Circus in the late afternoon. As a result, the Oxford Circus and nearby Bond Street subway stations were shut and panicked shoppers ran toward Piccadilly Circus. They did not return to the area.
“It was a relief that the activity at Oxford Circus on Friday was a false alarm with no serious injuries. Whilst it did impact numbers on Friday evening, the resilience of the West End has really shone through as footfall was recorded at over one million during the weekend,” said Jace Tyrrell, chief executive officer of the New West End Co.
The company added that it is working with the borough commander and deputy mayor for policing “to review our planning and ensure lessons are learnt” following the incident. It is expecting a 1.5 percent rise in footfall over the six-week period leading to Christmas, with sales reaching 2.6 billion euros.