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KEY POINTS

Coresight Research’s UK team visited London shops early on Black Friday morning to gauge crowds and deals. Here are the top trends we observed during our store checks:

  • We saw more subdued shopper traffic at a number of retailers compared to last year, including at House of Fraser, John Lewis and Currys PC World. Some retailers offered discounts over an extended period, and this likely impacted footfall on Black Friday.
  • Department stores and apparel retailers offered extensive and often-substantial discounts. 
  • Debenhams had near-universal price cuts of around 20%–30% across apparel and beauty. In apparel and accessories, House of Fraser offered 60% off selected private label goods and 20%–30% off selected branded products. John Lewis offered selective discounts on premium apparel brands.  
  • H&M offered 20% off everything and Zara offered 20% off outerwear, knitwear, shirts, trousers (except leggings), sweatshirts, bodysuits and shoes. Next offered deep discounts on a very limited range, apparently to clear old stock. 
  • Online, Boohoo.com offered deep discounts and ASOS offered 20% off everything. 

In the UK, the Coresight Research team visited London shops early on Black Friday morning to gauge crowds and deals.

Our store visits focused on Oxford Street and the surrounding West End area. We saw noticeably lighter shopper traffic compared to last year. Several retailers, including John Lewis and Currys PC World, offered discounts over an extended period, and this likely slowed footfall on Black Friday. 

Nevertheless, deep and widespread discounts abounded: 

  • Several apparel retailers such as H&M and Zara offered across-the-board 20% discounts. Debenhams offered similar discounts on many products. 
  • Multibrand stores such as House of Fraser offered deep discounts, even on premium brands. 

Department Stores, Apparel Retailers and Sports Stores

Light Early Traffic in Department Stores

Traffic at Debenhams was very light shortly after its 8 am opening—just as it has been in previous years. As on past Black Fridays, however, traffic increased by late morning, especially in the beauty department. Debenhams’ discounts were the most wide-ranging of the department stores we visited, with price cuts across almost all fashion and beauty.

  • Debenhams’ deals included near-universal discounts across apparel and beauty, with 20%–30% across menswear and womenswear and “VAT-free” beauty prices (value added tax is levied at 20% in the UK). 

House of Fraser opted out of opening early this year, with the Oxford Street store opening its doors at the usual time of 9:30 am. Shortly after 10:00 am, there were still only a few shoppers despite price cuts on premium brands.

  • House of Fraser’s deals included: 60% off selected private-label apparel products (such as a Linea men’s merino wool sweater reduced from £40 to £16); 20–30% off selected branded products, including premium brands such as Mulberry bags, Tommy Hilfiger bags and accessories, Polo Ralph Lauren clothing, Paul Smith menswear and Hugo Boss men’s apparel. In beauty, House of Fraser offered 15% off a range of cosmetics and fragrances, and 50% off selected bath and bodycare products. House of Fraser also offered some ultralow-price deals such as Pierre Cardin men’s jeans for £7 and men’s jackets for £10.

As in previous years, traffic in John Lewis was considerably lighter in its apparel departments than in electronics.

  • John Lewis fashion deals included: 20% off Reiss womenswear, 30% off Whistles womenswear (in line with House of Fraser) and 30% off Ted Baker menswear.

Apparel Specialists Offer Extensive Discounting

Next opted not to open early but a handful of people appeared to be waiting for the Oxford Street store to open. Its Black Friday discount of 70% was limited to a small range of autumn/winter clothing and to stocks from previous seasons that looked like they needed to be cleared—rather than the across-the-board discounting seen at other apparel retailers and department stores. Next discounted blazers, trousers, jackets, sweaters, dresses, skirts and tops. It also offered free delivery on items bought in-store and online.

H&M opened stores earlier than usual, at 8:00 am. There were few people shopping in the stores at Oxford Circus and Bond Street shortly after opening. H&M offered 20% off across all departments in-store and online.

Zara offered 20% off outerwear, knitwear, shirts, trousers (except leggings), sweatshirts, bodysuits and shoes, in-store and online. Staff were putting up signage when we visited the store. We observed slightly more shoppers at Zara than at H&M, and traffic at both Zara and H&M picked up as the morning went on.

Pull & Bear, owned by Zara’s parent firm Inditex, offered 20% off across all lines except Stranger Things, Rosalia and Marc Marquez products. Traffic was similar to what we observed at Zara and Massimo Dutti—with only a handful of shoppers shortly after opening. Inditex’s Massimo Dutti advertised 20% off “selected items,” though staff told us that the discount was applied to all products.

Superdry offered 20% off everything in its Regents Street store.

Sports Retailers

JD Sports offered some “retailtainment” in the form of a DJ playing music on Black Friday morning. During our mid-morning visits, the JD Sports store on Oxford Street was reasonably busy but Sports Direct was very quiet. Sports Direct tends to run promotions all year round, making it less urgent for shoppers to visit the store on Black Friday. JD Sports’ Black Friday deals were overall more attractive with discounts on some major brands, such as Fila sneakers.

  • JD Sports offered up to 30% off on many items in store.
  • Sports Direct offered shoppers a £10 voucher for every £50 spent.

Electronics

In previous years, John Lewis’s electronics department proved to be the sure-fire attraction on Black Friday morning. In 2017, we saw a rush for the department when the Oxford Street store opened its doors. This year, there was no such clamor for electronics and traffic was unusually light shortly after the store’s 8:00 am opening. John Lewis launched Black Friday promotions online earlier in the week.

  • John Lewis deals included: £30 off Amazon Echo Spot; Samsung 49” 4K UHD televisions for £701 (discount not specified); Samsung 40” 4K UHD televisions for £369 (discount not specified); £20 off Microsoft Office 365 Home; £149 off a Lenovo 520-24ARR All-In-One Desktop.

Likewise, when we checked Currys PC World’s flagship store at 8:00 am and again at 9:00 am, shopper traffic was very limited. The retailer’s Black Tag event offered deals for several days before and after Black Friday, and this likely softened store traffic on Black Friday itself. Currys PC World guaranteed that any customer who buys during the Black Tag promotion can claim a refund for the price difference if it is offered at a lower price on Black Friday. As in previous years, Currys PC World opened its Oxford Street flagship earlier than usual, at 7:00 aminstead of 9:00 am.

  • Currys PC World deals included: A Samsung 43” UHD Smart TV that normally sells for £699 at £459 and Canon cameras at £349 instead of £449. Most items had some kind of discount.

Where We Saw Lines of Shoppers

Some retailers did have lines of shoppers outside their stores before opening:

  • Gap, which promised year-round discounts to the first 50 customers in each store on Black Friday.
  • UGG, the boots brand.
  • Music retailer HMV, though this appears to have been due to demand for concert tickets.

Online

Amazon UK offered Black Friday promotions for a number of categories, including: Amazon devices; televisions, movies and home cinema; smart home devices; video games and accessories; grooming and personal care; computers and accessories; cameras; and, toys.

Camera deals included discounts of between 25% and 55% on brands such as Sony, Nikon and Canon. Mobile phone deals included 22-38% off Samsung smartphones. The Galaxy S8 smartphone was offered for £389 versus its original price of £623. Selected televisions were discounted 40-50%. The toy category saw price reductions up to 60% and special deals on LEGO products, Monopoly board games and drones. The Sony Bravia 4K HDR TV was priced at £549, half its original price of £1,099.

Boohoo.com promised up to 50% off everything, thoughdiscounts exceed 50% in many cases and were as high as 65% on a few products. The retailer’s Black Friday promotions began November 20 with a 30% discount on almost everything.The main promotion that offers 50% discount is a two-day event and went live a day before Black Friday. Boohoo.com also offered free super saver delivery on Black Friday orders.

ASOS offered 20% off everything with a voucher code. The promotion runs until 8:00 am on Tuesday, November 27. The 20% discount can be applied to ASOS’ Outlet site, too.

eBay UK’s Brand Outlet promoted Black Friday deals from major mass-market apparel names including Debenhams, Boohoo, Joules, TM Lewin and JD Williams.

Ocado’s Black Friday sales ranged across electrical goods, wine, housewares, kitchenware, health and beauty, toys and baby, from November 22–26.

Zalando UK offered up to 50% on over 150,000 items, including brands across clothing, footwear and accessories.In Germany, Zalando promised up to 70% off 150,000 products.

 

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