Holiday shoppers in London

LONDON — Britain’s Black Friday weekend saw footfall on the high street rise, although online shopping proved to be a disappointment.

Springboard, the retail research agency, said high-street footfall was up 2.8 percent on Black Friday. Chain stores on city streets outperformed those in retail parks and shopping centers, with the overall footfall figure down 0.5 percent on the day. Springboard added that from Friday through Sunday, online transactions rose by just 2.3 percent.

Data from PCA Predict, a firm that tracks online sales for retailers, showed that purchases made online rose 6.7 percent on Friday compared with last year. Online sales were expected to grow faster, with IMRG, the industry association for British e-tailers, forecasting a 16 percent uptick on Black Friday.

“Black Friday as a whole is still evolving as a shopping day in the U.K.,” said Diane Wehrle, Springboard’s marketing and insights director. “Black Friday has been heavily hyped by some retailers, but follows a lot of discounting throughout the year, so consumers are becoming more immune to it and although shoppers will be purchasing Christmas presents, we are not seeing that huge growth.”

According to the New West End Co., which oversees retail businesses around Oxford, Regent and Bond Streets in London, there was a footfall surge during the weekend, 3.8 percent higher last year, and 4.5 percent higher on Black Friday.

“Black Weekend reasserted its place as a stalwart on the retail calendar this year, with impressive footfall figures in the West End across the four-day period,” said Steven Medway, managing director, trading environment at New West End Co.

“A 4.5 percent year-over-year footfall increase across the district on Black Friday itself shows this annual event is far from being cloistered to online platforms. As the first key peak of the festive shopping season, and with Black Friday representing 1.25 percent of total annual sales, the U.S.-born phenomenon is showing no signs of slowing down. Last year the discount day was the second busiest shopping day of the year for the West End and following this year’s positive display, we expect a similarly impressive result.”

Although he was upbeat, he pointed to future challenges including further uncertainty from Brexit and the prospect of business rates revaluation in April, which will force West End businesses to pay an additional 125 million pounds, or $155 million, each year in taxes.

“It suggests a tough year ahead for retail trading,” he said.

Meanwhile, the distribution depot employees of Arcadia Group, owner of Topshop, kept their promise to strike on Cyber Monday. More than 50 workers from the logistics operation unit, based in Solihull, West Midlands, England, were locked in a minimum wage dispute.

The GMB Union helped workers protest outside of the Spectrum for Arcadia, a division of DHL. The logistics company fulfills orders for Arcadia labels such as Topman, Topshop, Burton and Miss Selfridge.

The strike, which is still going on, began at 5 a.m. GMT on Monday, with protestors picketing and carrying orange GMB signs and flags. They accuse former BHS boss and Arcadia chairman Sir Philip Green of “breathtaking arrogance” following his apparent lack of concern when the strike was announced last week.

Arcadia declined to comment.

“I am very proud of all the GMB members who stuck up for what they believed in and gave Philip Green a bloody nose this morning,” said GMB organizer David Warwick. “They formed a lively, good-spirited picket in conditions that felt more like Siberia than Solihull. Hopefully, the billionaire former BHS boss will now do the right thing, and give our hard-working members a decent, living wage.”

As reported, employees of the depot last week revealed plans to strike. The workers’ claim for hourly wages of 8.45 pounds, or $10.40, as set by the U.K.’s Living Wage Foundation, was rejected by Arcadia. They are currently being paid the national minimum wage of 7.20 pounds, or $8.97, an hour.

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