November sales see growth as online retailers enjoy biggest Black Friday yet

In Industry Comment, Industry News On

According to the latest figures released for November retail sales, Black Friday sales helped maintain the underlying pattern of growth, but concerns remain about sales being pulled forward from more lucrative sales peaks.

The underlying pattern in the retail industry in November 2017, as suggested by the three-month on three-month measure, remains one of growth, with the quantity bought increasing by 0.8%.

When compared with October 2017, the quantity bought in November 2017 increased by 1.1%, with household goods stores showing strong growth at 2.9%.

Retailers’ feedback suggests that Black Friday events contributed to the monthly increase in household goods stores – with electrical household appliances making the largest contribution to the growth.

Total average store prices increased by 3.1% in November 2017 when compared with the same period last year, with price increases across all store types.

Accountancy firm Wilkins Kennedy partner and head of retail and wholesale Phil Mullis commented: “Black Friday sales in particular propped up the Retail Sales figures for November, but no doubt other sales events such as Bonfire Night helped too.

“Food is a big proportion of total retail sales every month, usually at around 40% and with November 2017 food price inflation at 3.6% consumers spent 3.5% more than November 2016. However, the higher slice consumers spend on food means less of a cut for non-food purchases and this is a concern that has been noted by retailers and their plans for 2018.

“There is also a concern that Black Friday is cannibalising Christmas sales. The event is not just one day but often a series of events held over more than a week in some cases. This may give a great kick off to the Christmas selling season but it could end up affecting overall Christmas sales as consumers bring their purchases forward. The cannier retailers are those that make their Black Friday event product specific i.e. available just today or this week only, rather than using it as a discount-fest to shift product lines, boosting sales but biting chunks out of margin.

“It will be interesting to see how retail sales even out to the end of the year and if the recent cold snap we’ve had in December will affect footfall but drive online instead.”

The growth of online has been noted too, with this year’s Black Friday weekend deemed the ‘most successful in history for online retailers’, according to research from e-commerce and digital agency Visualsoft.

The study, which analysed more than 1,600 of the UK’s top online retailers, found that average site revenues were almost a quarter (23%) higher year-on-year compared to figures from 2016.

These findings are in keeping with what was the major theme of this year’s Black Friday – a surprising lack of footfall on the high street, with the majority of consumers opting to avoid the crowds and do their shopping online. This was underlined by the average number of orders the sites received, which was up by 15% compared with figures from last year.

Shoppers were also embracing the sales and spending more than last year, with the average order value also rising by 5%.

Visualsoft chief sales officer Tim Johnson said: “Much of the talk pre-Black Friday focused on the rise of online retail, which has been definitively proven by these year-on-year results.

“Because of this, however, the online marketplace is now more competitive than it has ever been before. Considering that we’re now well into the holiday season, online retailers need to be keeping up this momentum to take full advantage of the opportunities afforded by the surge in demand at this time of year.

“Taking steps to increase average order value such as up-selling and cross-selling related products are an incredibly effective way to encourage customers to add more items to their baskets and spend more online. Something we’re seeing a lot of at the moment is a lack of promotional popups and on-site overlays, which drive engagement and increase consumer spend. We took out some research recently, showing that almost one in three retailers are not making use of these, which is a real missed opportunity.”

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