FGRT’s UK team visited London shops early on Black Friday morning to gauge the crowds and the deals. Here are the top trends we observed during our Black Friday 2017 store checks:
- As in previous years, we saw very muted demand during our early-morning London store visits—there was so little traffic overall that we wonder whether some retailers may pull back from opening early next year. A quiet early trading period gave way to an influx of midmorning shoppers, notably in department stores.
- Apparel appeared to prove more popular than last year on Black Friday. Next opted to participate in Black Friday for the first time this year, offering 70% off deals that drew many shoppers. John Lewis’s apparel departments seemed busier than in prior years.
- We perceived John Lewis’s electronics department to once again be the winner in the brick-and-mortar segment. The retailer stood out in its ability to draw queues of shoppers ahead of store opening and there was a rush for the electronics department once doors opened.
- The night before Black Friday—or “Black Friday Eve”—continues to be the kickoff point for some retailers. Inditex launched its discount offers on the evening of November 23 and Argos reported that online sales peaked that evening.
Discounts Not Worth Getting Out of Bed For
FGRT’s UK team was out visiting London shops early on Black Friday morning. Our store visits focused on Oxford Street in the West End and the Westfield London mall in Shepherd’s Bush. Both areas saw very soft early-morning demand give way to bustling crowds by midmorning, and John Lewis’s stores pulled the biggest crowds in both locations.
John Lewis Electronics Once Again the “Winner”
Once again, the electronics department at John Lewis was the clear winner among the dozens of stores we visited. On Oxford Street, the department store opened at 9 a.m. on Black Friday this year versus 8 a.m. last year and shoppers had already lined up by the time the doors opened. As soon as they were let in, shoppers made a rush for the fifth-floor electronics department. We witnessed a similar pattern at the John Lewis store in the Westfield London mall. We saw shoppers flock in particular to laptops, televisions and Apple products.
- Headline deals at John Lewis included £500 off a Panasonic 4K OLED 65″ TV, discounts on Microsoft packages for laptops and £150 off a Panasonic 4K OLED 55″ television. John Lewis was also price-matching a competitor’s offer of £200 off an Apple MacBook Pro 15.4″ laptop
Muted Early Demand at Currys PC World
The UK’s biggest electronics specialist chain, Currys PC World, opened its Oxford Street store at 7 a.m. on Black Friday again this year. A small number of shoppers were waiting for the store to open, but early-morning demand was generally muted: staff, media and industry watchers (including analysts with no intention to buy) appeared to outnumber shoppers. We wondered whether the weak demand justified such an early opening.
- Headline deals at Currys PC World included £250 off a Microsoft Surface Pro bundle, £200 off a Lenovo IdeaPad 320 laptop and £200 off an HP 15.5″ laptop.
Apparel and Department Stores Pick Up by Midmorning, Apparel Demand Looks Stronger than Last Year
Debenhams was one of the few retailers to open its Central London store at 7 a.m. on Black Friday and, given the response of shoppers, it did not appear that the decision was justified. When we visited shortly after opening, footfall was negligible. As in previous years, shopper traffic picked up notably by midmorning, with the beauty hall seeing particular demand.
- Debenhams’ headline deals in apparel consisted of half off selected men’s and women’s knitwear, plus selected discounts of 20% or 25%. In menswear, all formal shirts were half price. In beauty, all fragrances were discounted by the price of sales tax on the individual items.
House of Fraser on Oxford Street opened at 8.a.m. and, like Debenhams, the store saw limited early demand before traffic picked up later in the morning. At the House of Fraser and Debenhams stores in the Westfield London mall, too, we witnessed very soft shopper traffic shortly after the stores’ 8 a.m. openings.
- We perceived House of Fraser to feature brands much more heavily than it did on Black Friday last year, when its discounts focused on its private labels. This year, we saw discounts of 20% and 30% on selected items from brands such as Polo Ralph Lauren and Ted Baker. However, the retailer still offered the deepest discounts on private-label products; for example, House of Fraser offered 40% off men’s Label Lab sweaters and 30% off men’s Howick sweaters.
Last year, we noted that John Lewis’s fashion departments were very quiet on Black Friday morning. This year, we saw a different pattern, with the menswear department bustling within 30 minutes of the store’s opening. A later opening time this year likely helped comparisons, but John Lewis’s price matching also may have boosted demand. As House of Fraser ramped up its brand promotions this year, John Lewis was compelled to match its price cuts, which may have attracted more apparel shoppers to John Lewis.
- Across fashion, John Lewis focused its promotions almost entirely on matching competitors’ prices, rather than leading with its own Black Friday offers. In addition, we noted a limited selection of discounts on private-label apparel at John Lewis.
Fashion specialist Next participated in Black Friday for the first time this year. The company stated that it was bringing forward some stock from its regular post-Christmas sale. On Oxford Street, the retailer offered 70% discounts on a highly limited selection of womenswear and menswear. Despite the narrow range of items offered on sale, the promise of deep discounts appeared to be a draw for many shoppers.
Aside from John Lewis, Uniqlo was the only Oxford Street store we observed that attracted lines of shoppers before opening. However, the queues at Uniqlo were prompted not by Black Friday discounts, but by the launch of a Kaws x Peanuts limited-edition collection of apparel and soft toys, which generated strong demand among shoppers. The Kaws x Peanuts items were sold at full price.
- Uniqlo offered selected deep discounts elsewhere, including offering men’s Oxford shirts for £9.90 versus a full price of £19.90 and T-shirts from just £1.90.
H&M offered 20% off everything in-store. Inditex’s banners, such as Zara, Bershka and Massimo Dutti, each offered 20% off virtually everything in-store. Online, Inditex continued its previous pattern of launching its discounts online the evening before Black Friday.
Amazon’s Black Friday Pop-Up Store
On November 21, Amazon opened a Black Friday–themed pop-up store in Soho Square in London. The Home of Black Friday store was structured as a home, with various rooms showcasing different types of products that can be purchased on Amazon.co.uk. The rooms included a kitchen, a lounge, a beauty room and bedroom, a gaming room, and a workshop.
Visitors could not buy items directly in the store, but could order them online by scanning QR codes on product labels with their smartphone. Visitors were also entertained with games, food and drink tastings, and the chance to try out gadgets such as the Amazon Echo Show. The store closed at the end of Black Friday.
Amazon promised thousands of “Lightning Deals”—limited-volume discounted items available for a matter of hours—and said that new deals would be added as often as every five minutes. As it did on Prime Day in July, Amazon promoted its own devices heavily on Black Friday. The company offered the Amazon Echo at its lowest-ever price of £69.99. Other deals included the Echo Dot for £34.99 (regularly £49.99), the Echo Plus for £109.99 (regularly £139.99), the Fire HD 8 tablet for £49.99 (regularly £79.99), the Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote for £24.99 (regularly £39.99) and the Fire 7 tablet for £29.99 (regularly £49.99).
Other top deals on Amazon.co.uk were:
- Up to 50% off on De’Longhi, Ingenix, Nescafe Dolce Gusto, Krups, Melitta and Jura coffee machines.
- LEGO board games for £12–£19 off.
- A 70cl bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue Label Blended Scotch Whiskey for £67.60 off.
- Up to 45% off Hive smart thermostats and smart LED bulbs.
- Up to 31% off on TVs from LG, Sony and Toshiba.
- An extra 20% off on fashion. As it did on Prime Day, Amazon took the opportunity on Black Friday to promote its private-label brands, including Find and Iris & Lilly.
Home appliances pure play AO.com claimed that it was offering deals on 6,556 products. The company’s key deals included:
- A 10% discount on gaming desktops, laptops and accessories and 10% off all tumblers over £249.
- Special cash rewards that customers could redeem on future orders, such as a £75 reward for the purchase of a De’Longhi N550.B coffee machine, which was already discounted £130, at £119.
This year, Very offered Black Friday deals across categories in association with Intel. Very offered up to 50% off selected clothing and footwear and 10% off customers’ first credit orders. Other headline deals included:
- £100 off a Lenovo 15.6″ HD laptop with Intel Core i3 processor.
- Up to £270 off an HP Envy X360 15.6″ touchscreen 2-in-1 laptop with Intel Core i5 processor.
- Up to 20% off all River Island products.
- Up to 30% off selected Adidas products.
- Up to 20% off on thousands of toys.
- Special deals on Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation products.
Fashion pure play Boohoo.com ran a “Black Friday Pre-Party Sale,” offering up to 50% off “absolutely everything” as well as free delivery. The company continued the promotion through Black Friday, across all categories. A countdown timer on the site indicated that the offer would end at the close of Black Friday and encouraged shoppers to “hurry” to take advantage of the sale.
Fashion retailer ASOS ran a sitewide Black Friday sale offering 20% off with a voucher code. Individual products did not feature specific discounts. ASOS is offering the 20% discount until 8 a.m. on November 28.
What Retailers Have Reported
By lunchtime on Black Friday, UK retailers had reported the following:
- More than 800,000 people visited Argos’s online channels between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on the evening before Black Friday, breaking last year’s traffic record. Fully 84% of those visits came from mobile devices.
- Video game consoles, games, tablets and TVs were among the top 10 best sellers as of midday on Black Friday.
- Argos’s top sellers were, in descending order, the PlayStation 4 Slim Black 500GB console bundle with FIFA 18, the iPad 9.7″ Wi-Fi 32GB in gold, the iPad 9.7″ Wi-Fi 32GB in space gray, the LG 43UJ635V 43″ Smart 4K Ultra HD TV with HDR and the PlayStation VR with VR Worlds Mega Starter Bundle.
Currys PC World
- Currys PC World’s online traffic via mobile devices was up 14% over the same period last year and was the highest mobile traffic the retailer has seen since it began participating in the Black Friday phenomenon.
- Some 14 of the company’s top 20 products ordered were TVs, with PlayStation 4 console bundles, the Xbox One bundle, the Dyson V6 Animal and the Microsoft Surface Pro also proving popular.
- At Currys PC World, orders of gaming console grew by 158%, while orders of big (55″–64″) TV grew by 44%, smart lighting by 408%, over-ear headphones by 223%, turntables by 120% and home baking items by 155%.
- Orders peaked at 12:13 a.m., with 2.35 orders coming through per second.
- Online, John Lewis’s busiest shopping hour was 7 a.m.–8 a.m., with an average of 495 units ordered per minute during the period.
- Customers who shopped online between 12 a.m. and 8 a.m. mainly used the John Lewis app as they browsed at home or on their way to work. App usage was up 36.8% from the same period last year.
- The retailer’s top seller by value was the 55″ LG OLED55B7V OLED HDR 4K Ultra HD Smart TV, priced at £1,399.00.
- The Sonos Play:1 smart speaker (priced at £149.00) was the biggest technology seller, with an average of 19 units sold per minute.
- Best sellers in beauty included Creed’s Aventus Eau de Parfum (priced at £207.00) and Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish Hot Cloth Cleanser (priced at £13.60).
Other major retailers such as Amazon had not reported metrics at the time of writing.