Ever since Black Friday came to UK shores in 2010, it’s been a growing feature of the retail calendar. It’s a time that promises one of the rare occasions where everybody seems to win; retailers make more sales, and shoppers get great deals.
But as this US import became more established and ubiquitous, good old British cynicism also grew. Were deals genuine? Were savings just too selective? Was this just noise to try to get us all spending?
And then came Black Friday 2022. With the cost of living crisis starting to bite, consumers went into the Black Friday period with tight budgets. With the expense of Christmas fast approaching, retailers naturally wondered whether snapping up Black Friday deals would still be high up on their list of shifting priorities. But they needn’t have worried. Savvy shoppers embraced Black Friday deals with purpose and with gusto.
Contrary to a lot of expectations, Black Friday performed remarkably well in 2022. Overall spending was up, and our research identified a 20% rise in the number of Black Friday purchasers compared with 2021. This was despite the Consumer Confidence Index sitting at -44, and retail sales in December as a whole dropping 5% compared to the previous year.
So, what were the reasons for Black Friday’s resilience?
Christmas round the corner
Although people had less money to spend, they clearly still considered Christmas gifts to be an essential purchase. 57% of UK adults said they bought gifts for their loved ones, 58% said they were using Black Friday to shop specifically for Christmas gifts, and Toys was also a strong, resilient category.
From spontaneous to strategic
Black Friday is usually associated with impulse purchases. But, last year, shoppers focused on making genuine savings with calculated spending. This meant that they went into the buying process earlier, were more willing to switch between retailers, and could identify better deals more easily.
The ‘lipstick effect’
It’s a commonly accepted theory that consumers will ditch high-ticket items in favour of cheaper luxury goods during times of economic hardship. When money’s tight, people are more willing to spend on items that will make them look and feel better. It’s one of the main reasons why health and beauty performed so well last year.
The bottom line: Those individuals who were most affected by price squeezes last year were also the most likely to spend money on Black Friday deals.
In summary: Black Friday was still going strong, and there were clear behavioural indicators as to why.
This year, it’s no different. The inflation rate clocked in at an eye-watering 6.7% in September. UK interest rates are still at 5.25% (their highest level for 15 years).
So will Black Friday become a make-or-break factor in retailers’ fortunes this golden quarter, as a driving force in Christmas spending? With Black Friday 2023 almost upon us, what do some of the experts in our team predict this year-round? Will it be more of the same? Or will there be another twist in the tale? Check out our Black Friday predictions for 2023 below.
Christmas on the cards
Sharon Hodgson, Retail and Shopper Expert
“I think Black Friday will dictate the Christmas shopping peak like never before this year. If shoppers can wait until they know what’s going to be discounted during Black Friday, it will result in massively concentrated Christmas spending in November. Xmas lists could also play a strong role, with families giving each other license to ask for what they want — thus making sure money is well spent and not wasted on ill-judged surprises!
“That said, I also think there will be a bigger than ever bounce in returns over the Black Friday period as early Christmas purchases are returned in favour of deals, creating big challenges for retailers.”
More planned purchases
Robin Horsfield, Founder
“Last year, Black Friday shoppers made a shift away from instinctive System 1 thinking towards strategic, logical System 2 thinking. I imagine that this trend will only intensify this year. With every edition of Black Friday, consumers are getting better and better at differentiating between slight discounts and genuine deals.”
Long live lipstick
Becki Jarvis, Head of Beauty and Wellness
“Black Friday will undoubtedly drive volume for the beauty industry. After another tough year for consumers, the ‘lipstick effect’ could be the saving grace, as we know ‘self treat’ is an important mission. Black Friday offers the perfect opportunity to boost spirits with something new and exciting — with a compelling discount to match.”
Over the past few years, we’ve seen consumer sentiment towards Black Friday shift in a positive direction. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. With times harder than ever, this year I expect consumers to embrace Black Friday like never before.
But while this is good news, retailers and brands shouldn’t get complacent. Consumers are watching every penny so those who offer great value, and convince consumers they are getting genuinely good deals, will emerge as the true winners.
At Trinity McQueen, we’ll continue our Christmas tradition of speaking to Black Friday shoppers and gathering all the important data about their purchases — before collating it into our annual Black Friday report.
If you want to be one of the first to get your hands on that report, then please get in touch and request your copy. Or, if you have any questions (related or unrelated), ask away!