Blackfriar: Black Friday footfall rises for the first time in three years

Footfall on Black Friday grew for the first time since 2016, providing some rare good news for the sector after a difficult year for high street retailers.

All eyes will be on John Lewis' weekly sales figures
All eyes will be on John Lewis' weekly sales figures

Footfall increased by 3.3 per cent across the UK across all shopping destinations including high streets, retail parks and shopping centres, according to Springboard data.

Going into this important trading weekend, commentators were predicting a fall of 4.5 per cent year-on-year.

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Analyst Greg Lawless at Shore Capital said the cold but dry sunny weather was an important for bricks and mortar retailers and this year’s Black Friday event coincided with payday, as consumers start to think about gifting for the festive season.

The US import has gained popularity in the UK and now instead of being a one day event, it appears to have been going on for at least a fortnight for anyone who is an Amazon Prime subscriber.

Originally imported to the UK by Amazon in 2011, Black Friday is an American tradition that harks back to the bank holiday on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

There are two theories behind the name - the streets were black with fumes as shoppers piled into their cars to grab deals or this was the first day of the year retailers went into profit.

Research from gadget insurer Protect Your Bubble estimates that shoppers were planning to spend an average of £182 during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

The insurer claims that “Bargain-loving Brits have put General Election uncertainty to the back of their minds”.

Around 30 per cent said they were using the Black Friday sales to do some early Christmas shopping for family and friends.

Just under a quarter (23 per cent) said they were looking to buy clothes and shoes in the sales.

The research showed that the impending General Election hasn’t put off Black Friday bargain hunters. Just a fifth (20 per cent) of respondents said they planned to curb their spending because of uncertainty around which party will be in power post December 12 and what that will mean for the general economy.

Yesterday the focus turned to Cyber Monday, traditionally the day that consumers order Christmas presents online. Research by Colliers International forecasts that online sales across both November and December will break the £20bn mark.

Mr Lawless said Black Friday has changed the phasing of Christmas by pulling forward sales into November.

He added that the electrical sector has been deeply discounting for the last month or so, and it will be interesting to see both the John Lewis weekly sales numbers and the Dixons Carphone results on December 12 for additional colour.

He said Shore Capital store visits on Black Friday in the Midlands and North West highlighted strong trading at JD Sports, Debenhams, Primark, The Works, Poundland and Zara, in particular.

However, at Next, M&S and John Lewis, he reported lots of shoppers were browsing, but fewer shopping bags were being carried around.

“From a valuation perspective we would continue to be surprised to see many earnings updates strongly referencing Black Friday. 23 trading days to go until Santa arrives. All to play for, a bit like the UK election, perhaps...” he concluded.

However, Which? research has shown that just one in 20 “deals” is cheapest on Black Friday. The Which? investigation found that nearly all Black Friday deals are cheaper or available for the same price at other times of the year and the consumer champion urged shoppers to do their research before buying.

There is a growing suspicion among consumers that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are more of an American gimmick aimed at boosting retailers’ tills rather than a genuine way for shoppers to save money.