Britain’s high streets were empty on Black Friday this morning as people were expected to spend more online this Christmas than in the high street for the first time thanks to the closure of non-essential stores.
The major shopping thoroughfare of Oxford Street in London’s West End was very quiet as shoppers stayed at home with the four-week national coronavirus lockdown for England not ending until next Wednesday.
Shoppers are still predicted to spend £2billion more than last year this weekend, but much of this is shifting online – and experts warned that some bargains may not be quite as attractive as they appear.
Many internet retailers, including Amazon and eBay, have been running Black Friday deals for weeks. However, a dramatic surge is expected today through the weekend to Cyber Monday.
A study by the Centre for Retail Research estimates spending at online stores over the three days will hit £5.75 billion – up by 53 per cent on the £3.77 billion for the Black Friday weekend last year.
Oxford Street in London’s West End is very quiet this morning as Black Friday gets underway across the country
A very quiet Oxford Street in London this morning as the four-week national lockdown for England continues
Fleets of delivery drivers will be needed to meet the demand, leading to fears that the courier system will not be able to cope, threatening delays and disappointment.
Many supermarket delivery slots for the week before Christmas are already booked and there is a shortage of qualified drivers to deal with the tsunami of online orders.
Fortnum & Mason boss says a ‘THIRD of UK retail brands will disappear’ by MARCH after 80% plunge in footfall
Ewan Venters, Fortnum & Mason chief executive
The Fortnum & Mason CEO today gloomily predicted a third of British retail brands will disappear by March after an 80 per cent plunge in footfall due to lockdown and shoppers avoiding the West End.
Ewan Venters said the Government’s new strict tier system, which bans people meeting anyone outside their household indoors, would restrict the number of shoppers venturing into stores over the crucial Christmas period.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I predict that by the end of the first quarter of next year up a third of British retail brands will disappear.’
Mr Venters, who will leave his role in the New Year, said the lack of footfall would hurt Fortnum’s, the upmarket Piccadilly department store established in 1707.
‘It puts the business in a fragile position because so much of our sales and profitability comes from the month of December, and in a large part, November,’ he said.
‘Fortunately we have a strong balance sheet and good cash reserves so we’ll see through this storm but for a number of retailers the lack of Christmas trade would put them in a perilous position.’
The Shopping for Christmas study predicts online spending will peak on Black Friday itself when £1.34 million will be spent every minute.
Because much of the high street is closed, the report – commissioned by Vouchercodes.co.uk – predicts that spending in bricks-and-mortar shops over the weekend will be down by 63.7 per cent on last year, from £4.79 billion to £1.74 billion.
The figures suggest the total spent this weekend online and on the high street could be £7.5 billion.
Black Friday, a US custom in which shops slash prices to lure Christmas shoppers, falls the day after Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the last Thursday of November.
Research by e-commerce platform EKM has projected that online Black Friday sales will be 53 per cent higher this year.
Online marketplace eBay has said it expects a surge of sales as people continue to complete their Christmas shopping early.
Murray Lambell, general manager of eBay UK, said: ‘This year, the country will experience its biggest Black Friday yet with people across the UK gearing up to take advantage of the incredible deals eBay has on offer to save on Christmas shopping and shop ahead where they can.
‘We predict online baskets will be filled with items such as gym equipment, toys and entertainment that the whole family can enjoy as we stay home more and put an increased focus on keeping our minds and bodies healthy.’
Pippa Wicks, executive director at John Lewis, said it will ‘undoubtedly be a Black Friday like no other’, with 39 of its 42 shops closed as a result of lockdown measures.
She said: ‘We are offering hundreds of Black Friday deals at John Lewis and are also continuously monitoring the prices of our high street competitors as part of our commitment to being never knowingly undersold.
‘This means that our customers can be sure we offer the best value on the high street throughout the Black Friday period and in the run-up to Christmas.’
However, analysts at EY said that early Christmas shopping and restrictions have impacted the importance of the sales event.
Silvia Rindone, EY UK & Ireland retail partner, said: ‘Once a big event for the retail industry, the reality is that Black Friday’s significance has diminished.
‘This year, retailers have brought offers forward due to the national restrictions put in place earlier this month so it’s unlikely there will be significant new discounts this week.
A pedestrian walks past a taped-off entrance to Oxford Circus station in a deserted Central London this morning
Quiet roads in the Oxford Street area of Central London are pictured this morning as Black Friday gets underway
Northumberland Street, Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s busiest shopping street, is quiet on Black Friday today due to the lockdown
‘Now, retailers need to look beyond festive deals in order to aim for recovery and a positive start to 2021.
Next, M&S, Wilko and B&M shun Black Friday
Four major UK retailers have announced plans to shun Black Friday.
Next, M&S, Wilko and B&M say they will not take part in the annual sale event.
They have pledged to focus on offering good value all-year round instead.
An M&S spokesman told the BBC that it hadn’t offered any ‘specific Black Friday deals’ for the last few years.
The spokesman added: ‘We focus on offering great value and deals throughout the whole festive season.’
Bosses at discount variety store B&M have also criticised the annual sale event, saying consumers are often ‘chasing largely deceptive offers that do not represent real savings, or are only available in very limited stocks.’
They added that not having a Black Friday would help to ‘avoid excessive crowds on any one day.’
‘What would have been a 10-year transition from physical to online sales has happened in less than a year, and retailers need to understand and adapt to likely permanent shifts in consumer behaviour.’
However, experts warn that many Black Friday deals in the UK are not what they seem.
Research by Which? reveals that 85 per cent of products promoted as Black Friday deals last year had been on sale at the same price or cheaper in the weeks before.
The consumer group said shoppers should also look out for duds that come at a tempting price but still aren’t worth the money.
Which? identified a range of bargain goods, from toasters to TVs and car seats, that are of such poor quality it deems them ‘Don’t Buy’ products – some of them sold by the likes of Amazon, AO.com, Currys PC World and John Lewis.
It said: ‘Dud deals include a stairgate that failed a key safety test, a tepid toaster and a vacuum cleaner that fails to do the dirty work.’
For example, the Hisense 65A7100FTUK LED TV, on sale at £499 at Currys PC World, had the worst picture quality Which? reviewers had seen on a 65in TV for years.
Natalie Hitchins, of Which?, said: ‘Don’t dive in when you spot a tempting deal or you could end up with a dud. Save money and time by steering clear of these Don’t Buy products.
‘To nab a quality product that will last the test of time, look beyond the special offer and check independent, thorough test results.
Meanwhile a consumer psychologist warned shoppers to do their homework before rushing to buy what looks like a bargain during Black Friday.
2019: Members of the public queue outside JD Sports on Oxford Street in London on Black Friday on November 29 last year
2018: Shoppers walk down a very busy Black Friday on London’s Oxford Street on November 23 two years ago
Dr Cathrine Jansson-Boyd, reader in consumer psychology at Anglia Ruskin University, revealed why it is very easy to get carried away when finding what we think are reduced prices.
Amazon giving $500m in frontline staff bonuses
Amazon is dedicating $500million to Christmas bonuses for its frontline staff after the company recorded a stellar year of sales during the pandemic.
In a blog post, senior vice president of Amazon Worldwide Operations Dave Clark said the money would go to full-time and part-time staff who are employed by the company between December 1 and December 31.
Full-time frontline employees in the UK and the US will receive £300 or $300, while part-time staff will be eligible for £150 or $150.
The e-commerce and technology giant recorded a net income of $6.3billion (£4.73billion) in the three months to September 30 – up from $2.1 billion (£1.58billion) in the third quarter of last year.
By the end of the year, Amazon will have recruited 10,000 extra UK staff to cope with the uptick in sales stemming from the pandemic.
The company faced criticism over work conditions earlier this year, with the company hit with strikes from workers in France and Italy over virus safety concerns. In April, a row over sanitary working conditions forced the company to temporarily shut six of its warehouses in France.
Amazon has since said it has made more than 150 ‘significant’ process changes to ensure the health and safety of its staff, from enhanced cleaning and social distancing measures to the distribution of personal protective equipment (PPE) and the implementation of temperature checks. The company has also rolled out a pilot programme offering Covid-19 testing for its frontline workers in the UK.
‘The part of our brain that controls pleasure responds quickly to the sight of a ‘bargain’, helping us experience a rush of excitement,’ she said.
‘Fearful of missing out on what we think is a good offer, this can lead us to make rash decisions.
‘Therefore it’s really important that consumers do their homework before making purchases.
‘Make sure you know what an item normally costs so it is clear whether the reduction really is a bargain.
‘Having as much information as possible can help your brain ‘put the brakes on’, allowing you to engage in more sensible decision-making.’
A tip Dr Jansson-Boyd recommends is going to grab a cup of tea if you feel uncertain about a possible purchase.
‘A really good technique is if you are looking at something and you don’t feel dead certain instantly that you need or want this. then say to yourself, ‘I’m going to go and make a cup of tea, have a think about it for 10 minutes and come back to it’ – and often you’ll find you don’t come back to it,’ she explained.
The consumer psychologist said big retailers are well aware of tactics to make people want to buy and hire specialists like her to tap into our desires.
‘They will have messages like, ‘you only have 12 hours’, they’ll show you a countdown clock to put extra pressure on you because that means you will be concerned that the time’s coming to an end you might be missing out, it might say there’s only two left or there’s one left, or there’s ten people watching this one item, it kind of fuels this idea that you could genuinely be missing out so, yes, they’re very much aware,’ she said.
‘They work often with people like me, they understand this, they know what to do, marketing, bigger marketing companies who work with bigger brands usually know this too.’
Samsung Galaxy Smart Watch, Loft 25 Bean Bag Gamer Chair, Black Friday 2020 is finally here! Annual shopping extravaganza hits the UK with Amazon leading the way – and there is more than 50% off everything from tech to children’s toys
With all but essential shops still shuttered for lockdown in England and other parts of the UK, there will be no scenes of bargain-hunters fighting in the aisles over discounted flat‑screen televisions today.
Instead, the battle for Black Friday deals this year is a cyber one — with consumers heading online as they look to save money.
Experts predict record sales — £750 million today alone — and record price cuts, with shops trying to avoid being stuck with a mountain of unsold stock as the year’s second shutdown has robbed them of four weeks’ peak pre-Christmas trading.
‘This Black Friday has the potential to be the biggest yet, sitting one week closer to Christmas and coming just after pay day for a lot of people,’ says Kyle Monk, head of insight and analytics at the British Retail Consortium. ‘Nonetheless, it poses a dilemma for retailers this year, who must weigh up whether significantly reduced margins are worth the additional volume when deciding on the discounts they will offer, particularly given that stores are closed this year and that online performance this golden quarter might be make or break for some.’
And that is not the only way that lockdown is likely to influence the bargains for which we are looking.
Gadgets are top of the UK’s wish list, followed by fashion, toys and home products.
The first lockdown saw sales of bread-makers and freezers boom as panic buying set in, followed by working-from-home kit such as printers and webcams.
But now it’s all about home entertainment and shopping for Christmas presents. Indeed, online electricals retailer AO World says it is expecting to more than double the amount of televisions it sells during this year’s Black Friday event compared with last year. Chief executive John Roberts predicts his firm will sell more than 100,000 TVs, with customers able to get more than a third off some sets.
Meanwhile, eBay is expecting traffic to its website to eclipse last year, when 18 items were sold every second. Murray Lambell, general manager of eBay UK, predicts toys and entertainment items the whole family can enjoy will be particularly popular.
Inevitably, the move from physical shops to online purchases also increases the risk that shoppers may fall foul of fraudsters.
Consumers are being advised to only buy from official websites, rather than to click on links sent in scam emails designed by fraudsters to look like they come from big-name companies. Consumers are also being told to shop around for the best deals.
According to a survey by Lloyds, nearly two-thirds of consumers who intend to shop in the sales this year have actively delayed a purchase to see what discounts become available. But Which? advises that if customers don’t like the deal on offer, they would do well to wait a little longer. Research by the consumer rights’ champion found that some ‘deals’ are not all they seem, with prices actually dropping further in the weeks after Black Friday. Ahead of the sales, some firms also inflate prices to make the Black Friday discount look greater still.
Websites such as Pricerunner, PriceSpy and CamelCamelCamel (Amazon only) can be used to check a product’s price history, revealing if what has caught your eye is a genuine bargain. Feast your eyes on these welcome discounts on toys and tech.
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