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IMRG: How Did The Pandemic Change Black Friday?

Black Friday Shutterstock 725 x 500
  • Online sales growth expected to be negative, possibly as much as -10%
  • Campaigns could start even earlier than in 2020
  • The week of Black Friday lost share of revenue versus other weeks in November in 2020

This year, the major retail discounting period, Black Friday, is officially on 26th November (the day following Thanksgiving in the US). But, since Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the UK, there has always been scope for extending when Black Friday campaigns actually start, and how long they last. While this has been a trend for a number of years, the pandemic may have accelerated that trend to an extent that has bought about some changes to the festive trading season. IMRG extracted some data to quantify these changes and address the question: when exactly is Black Friday?

Campaigns Have Started Much Earlier

The first graph illustrates the changes in live Black Friday campaigns each year, across November, over a four-year period (2017-20) for the same 180 retailers. In 2017 and 2018, the tendency was for campaigns to launch across the week of the official Black Friday. Then in 2019, the number of retailers with their campaigns live on the Monday before Black Friday week almost doubled. In 2020, there was a November lockdown in England, which drove that trend for earlier launches much higher – on the Monday before Black Friday in 2019, 19 retailers had their campaigns live, while in 2020 it was 59.

 /live/news/wysiwyg/01-11-2021 2.jpg

Earlier Again?

IMRG ran a poll of 60 retailers to understand when they would launch their Black Friday campaigns in 2021. The results are as follows.

/live/news/wysiwyg/01-11-2021 1.jpg

If this poll is borne from reality, it means that 33% of retailers would have their campaigns live by the end of week two of November, whereas in 2020 only 20% were live by that point.

The Share of Sales, by Week, Shifted in 2020

Although the trend has been for earlier launches, the week of Black Friday itself had still been accounting for a greater share of the overall sales from the four weeks of November. In 2018, Black Friday week took 35% of the revenue over the four weeks, and in 2019 this rose to 41%. The lockdown is likely to have been a big factor, but in 2020 this dropped to a three-year low of 33% with each of the other three weeks taking a greater share. With so many stories in the media encouraging people to shop early for Christmas, this pandemic trend may continue again in 2021.

Black Friday is still the peak day

The official day of Black Friday is still very significant however, and increased its share of revenue (of the eight-day week running from Monday of Black Friday week through to Cyber Monday) from 20% in 2019 to 22% in 2020. This may be related to the fatigue of campaigns running for such a long period – so while people want to get a good deal, many aren’t interested enough to monitor sites for weeks, preferring to just focus activity on a single day.

Expectations for Black Friday trade in 2021

There’s still a peak within a peak, which is the actual day of Black Friday, but customer perception of when it happens may well become confused. This is due to campaigns increasingly running over multiple weeks and even longer. It does seem likely that the share of sales will continue to spread out as a consequence, but this year, actual online sales growth for the month of November, and Black Friday itself, will probably be negative. It could be as much as -10% for both, due to the very strong growth in 2020.

This means that, for the first time, less money will be spent online on Black Friday than the previous year, but this does not mean volumes are low – they will be very high still, it’s just that those volumes are rationalising a bit following astronomical growth in 2020.

Source : IMRG

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01 November 2021

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