The Brits don’t celebrate U.S. Thanksgiving, but over the past couple of years retailers have conditioned them to expect sales on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving). This year, consumers responded by spending 1.1 billion pounds ($1.64 billion) on Black Friday, up 35.8% from 810 million pounds in the same period a year ago, according to data from IMRG and web measurement firm Experian.
During the four-day Black Friday weekend, U.K. consumers spent 3.3 billion pounds ($4.93 billion), according to the IMRG and Experian data.
The days broke down as follows:
- Black Friday, 1.1 billion pounds ($1.64 billion)
- Saturday, 561 million pounds ($838.0 million)
- Sunday 676 million pounds ($1.01 billion)
- Cyber Monday 968 million pounds ($1.45 billion), up 34.4% from 720 million pounds a year ago.
Though the 3.3 billion-pound total is for four days, many promotions and sales started the Monday before, on Nov. 23, according to U.K. e-retail association Interactive Media in Retail Group. Black Friday is a relatively recent shopping phenomenon in the United Kingdom, with the trend building since 2010. But Black Friday exploded into the British public consciousness in 2014 when retail sales exceeded forecasts and overwhelmed some operations, IMRG says.
Black Friday in the U.K. became more manageable this year, with better online performance and fewer scuffles in stores, according to IMRG. “That said, the nature of this type of sales event makes it hard to predict and the Black Friday period (as opposed to a single day) doesn’t feel quite like it’s settled into a definite pattern yet. It’s evolving rather than evolved—so don’t be surprised if it evolves further next year,” editor Andy Mulcahy wrote in an IMRG post.
Record online results speak to British retailers’ being prepared for the shopping weekend push, said John Beechen, head of managed services at Salmon Ltd., an e-commerce consultancy whose clients include U.K. grocery chain Sainsbury’s, No. 16 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Europe 500.
“Many pushed out deals early to build momentum and help level out volume surges over a wider period of time, reducing strain on infrastructure and fulfilment teams and allowing retailers to check systems were up and running smoothly in advance,” Beechen said. “With this planned activity encouraging shoppers to spend ahead of Black Friday, the £1.1 billion result is even more impressive as consumers continued to buy generously on the day.”
But it wasn’t all good news for British retailers or consumers. More than one in five consumers (21%) said it was “impossible or extremely difficult” to find information on retailers’ websites, a threefold increase from the 7% of U.K. consumers who responded the same way in 2014, according to research from Eptica, a U.K.-based seller of customer interaction management software. The 2015 Eptica Retail Christmas Customer Experience Study is based on consumer research conducted Nov. 30 by Toluna with 1,000 shoppers in the United Kingdom and 1,000 in the United States.
“Given that consumers are becoming more demanding, and want to increasingly use channels such as mobile, retailers need to improve the experience before their customers simply go elsewhere,” said Olivier Njamfa, CEO and co-founder of Eptica.
There still is time for retailers’ to make improvements. Many British consumers say they plan to shop after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday rush, Eptica said. While 24% bought items online on Black Friday and 12% on Cyber Monday, 49% hadn’t made any purchases before the end of November.
Other findings from Eptica include:
- 29% of U.K. consumers were extremely satisfied with the online experience, while 33% were unsatisfied.
- 37% of Britons were unhappy with their in-store experience, while 27% were extremely satisfied.