If the month of November was traditionally rather quiet for retail, new promotional events have been contributing to boosting sales. The most important event is of course Black Friday, which many UK shoppers await eagerly. But other promotions have also been having increasing success, such as Singles Day coming from China. What is the impact of these new promotional events? And what are the opportunities for consumer brands?

Black Friday: a highly anticipated event


Imported from the United States by Amazon in 2010, Black Friday has become a much-awaited event in the UK. According to research from PwC, more than half of UK consumers (52%) are either interested or plan to buy something during Black Friday 2019. They expect to spend £224 on average (11% more than last year).

McKinsey research carried out in 2018 shows that the top consumer motivations for shopping during Black Friday are:

  • Steep discounts (for 55% of UK consumers)
  • One-off promotions (for 49% of UK consumers)
  • Buying gifts for the holidays (for 44% of consumers)

GlobalData believes total Black Friday sales will reach £4.3 billion in the UK in 2019, up 2.2% compared to 2018. Zoe Mills, Retail Analyst at GlobalData, says: “Black Friday promotional sales continue to outperform the overall quarter as shoppers both delay spend that would have otherwise occurred before the event, while other shoppers bring forward spend, for example to capitalise on the low prices when purchasing Christmas gifts.”

77% of Black Friday purchases are expected to take place online. There should however be an impact on traffic in stores as well, with Black Friday contributing to increasing footfall. Lidl for example has announced that it will be holding a Black Friday tech sale, with limited stock available in stores only and on a first-come first-served basis.

Growing scepticism and criticism


However, the PwC research also shows that consumers are increasingly cynical about Black Friday deals. Of those spending less this year, 29% claim that the deals aren’t exciting and 20% believe that deals aren’t genuine.

Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets Leader at PwC, shares: “While it’s become a firm fixture in the retail calendar, Black Friday is perhaps also the most polarising. We’re seeing growing scepticism towards the event, with nearly half of respondents claiming to be uninterested in Black Friday promotions, or avoiding it altogether. Some consumers doubt the quality of the deals on offer, with many seeing them as not especially good value or not worthy of interest, and this is likely to have been exacerbated as Black Friday deals have spread to the whole of “Blackvember””.

Zoe Mills from GlobalData adds:” The prominence of sustainability concerns in 2019 will see some consumers and retailers alike shun the event. Deciem will be shutting its stores on Friday 29 November and French brand Fagou is supporting a Make Friday Green Again collective to limit what it says is a discount period that encourages consumers to purchase items they do not need. Its impact will be small in 2019, but as we have seen throughout the year as more consumers – and as a result, retailers – place greater emphasis on environmental concerns, shopping habits may begin to change in the future.”

Mark & Spencer for example has decided not to engage in Black Friday since 2015. Steve Rowe, Marks & Spencer CEO, told Euronews that his focus is on improving M&S’ value all year round. “That’s the way to deliver great value for customers, not one off promotions, so we won’t be taking part” he said.

Singles Day: a new promotional event gaining ground


To differentiate from competitors, some stores have also been leveraging new promotional events such as “Singles Day”. This event born in China was created to allow single people to benefit from exclusive discounts on the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. The Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba broke a new sales record during its 2019 Singles Day, with $38 billion in sales in just one day.

This event is gaining ground in Europe and in particular in the UK. According to a study by the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) commissioned by VoucherCodes, nearly 1 out of 6 UK consumers (16.5%) was aware of Singles Day 2019.

Anita Naik, Lifestyle Editor at VoucherCodes, says: “Sceptics may consider the awareness of Singles’ Day to be relatively low, but Black Friday was not-so-long-ago viewed apprehensively by British shoppers as an American tradition. It has since grown into a monumental discount event.”

It is estimated that total UK sales on Singles Day 2019 reached £1.29 billion, with the UK generating the highest sales in Europe. Retailers such as Amazon, ASOS, Dorothy Perkins, Jo Malone and Superdrug participated in this year’s edition with special offers.

A Golden Quarter leading up to New Year


While November has become increasingly important, it is part of a “Golden Quarter” according to Criteo. From October to December, there are several key shopping moments: Halloween, Singles Day, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Boxing Day and New Year.

Criteo highlights that the Golden Quarter has transformed consumer expectations and behaviours: shoppers have started cherry picking from this cycle of promotions to find the right deal and/or experience to meet their needs.

John Gillan, Criteo Managing Director for Northern Europe and the UK, explains to Netimperative: “With an extended sales period, shoppers feel less pressured to splurge on a single day and are able to wait for the right price or item to be reduced”.

2 out of 3 UK consumers (66%) say their purchasing decisions are affected by promotion, price or discount. As such, key shopping moments and promotional events are excellent opportunities for brands to communicate, generate brand preference and boost sales in stores. They can help:

  • Increase sales of a specific product or range
  • Attract and conquer new consumers
  • Improve awareness
  • Build community

In conclusion, November promotional events should remain important moments for both consumers and brands. With rather low awareness just a few years ago, Black Friday and Singles Day promotions have become increasingly popular in the UK. Consumer brands have the opportunity to leverage these days which increase traffic in stores and contribute to boosting sales.

At Shopmium, during the Black week-end, we have decided to donate 0.10 euros to Humanity & Inclusion for each cashback request.