Blog Post - Hugh Fletcher, Dec 17 2019

​Peak: How has it progressed?

​Peak: How has it progressed?

Author: Hugh Fletcher

2019 marked the ninth year of Black Friday in the UK; although it feels like it’s been around forever. It symbolises the kick-off of the holiday shopping season and is a key milestone in the retail calendar. This year we expected Black Friday and the weeks that followed to continue to attract shoppers more than ever before.

In fact, in the UK the weekend of Black Friday and Cyber Monday saw tremendous results for retailers this year. Barclaycard reported transaction value to be up 16.5% compared with the previous year and the volume of transactions was up 7.2%. These are big numbers – and the appetite to grab a deal certainly isn’t waning.

Yet while media attention may focus its efforts on the shopping day phenomenon, Black Friday plays a part in a much wider holiday shopping season and has had a significant role in when discounts and sales are on offer over the course of the year.

Before the emergence of Black Friday, retailers and shoppers alike would wait until Boxing Day and the January sales each year for discounts on goods, expecting to pay a premium on products in general after the summer sales and before the 26th December.

But times have changed and so have the peaks that retailers rely on.

Along came Black Friday, first fought out in-store then transforming – though not exclusively – into an online clicking frenzy across a day or two, then to a more measured and spread out period of bargains for consumers to take advantage of. In 2019, the traditional sales period has now transformed into a two-month spell and plays a critical part of a retailer’s bottom line for the year.

The change in peak and the sale season has left retailers divided and conflicted about whether they should participate. Questions are raised as to the profitability of the extended sale season: margins are smaller than they might otherwise be, but does that mean retailers, brands and marketplaces shouldn’t bother? Unlikely; peak season can account for up to 30% of retailers’ annual sales in some industries, so it can’t really be ignored.

The surge retailers see in sales over the course of Black Friday and the peak trading season proves that customers like discounts. We’re heading – or rather already headed – into an era where consumers expect more products, more discounts, across more of the year. Black Friday shouldn’t mean doing away with Christmas sales – it should complement them. In 2019, they both form part of the peak period and are not mutually exclusive.

It’s clear that Black Friday and the peak trading season are here to stay and that shoppers increasingly expect to find deals well in advance.

With Singles Day, Prime Day and even Black Friday growing bigger by the year, how far will peak extend next year?