Why Black Friday Sales Rose, But Not On The High Street

How was it for you? If you're like the rest of the population, Black Friday was probably a case of checking out a couple of codes emailed over by your favourite retailers before you either clicked through or went on Amazon to see if it was offering a better deal.

Either of these actions are far more likely for anyone with a job than taking the afternoon off work to catch a bus into town or circle a car park for hours to bash elbows with those rummaging around stores looking for deals. In fact, Sky News reveals that in-store footfall was down around 4%. Springboard -- the company behind that figure -- is predicting a similar drop today, Cyber Monday.

The Guardian's coverage of the lacklustre Black Friday on the high streets states that one well-known consumer electronics and computing store flung open its doors to greet Black Friday shoppers only to find just one customer was waiting. Even then, they weren't there to run in and spot a deal, but rather pick up a computer they had pre-ordered. 

However, the same article goes on to say that overall sales were up around 8% on last year. The clear takeaway? People can't be bothered to take a day off work to fight what they perceive to be bargain-seeking crowds when they can get everything they need at the click of a button. In fact, they can't even be bothered to set their alarm clock to go shopping before the morning commute. E-commerce traffic was down around a quarter from midnight to 7am compared to the year before. It was only an increase in online shoppers later on in the day that saw last year's spend surpassed.

It's not hard to unravel what has happened here. Black Friday has lost its allure slightly this year as retailers have been discounting all year round just to stay in business. Many are also cutting margins to the limit to save passing on a rise in costs caused by the weaker pound. So with prices already low, there wasn't a great deal that Black Friday could offer. 

The feeling I got was that people were hanging around to see if there were any deals online before ticking off items on their Christmas present list. It was more a case of waiting to see if there's a deal -- and if not, it's not going to get more expensive, so I might as well start my festive shopping. 

Against a backdrop of year-round discounting and e-commerce operators offering inclusive shipping, particularly over the Black Friday weekend, there really was no great reason to hit the stores Friday and I very much suspect the same will be true of today, Cyber Monday. 

Sales might be up but I doubt if overall spend is. People were just waiting to see how low prices could go before they started to spend. Black Friday still has some allure, perhaps online. When it comes to battling other shoppers, however, this year's event has turned out to be a bit of a damp squib.

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