Black Friday fails to lift gloom on high streets as footfall dives

Alicia Cross
November 28, 2017

While Black Friday has evolved from a single day of massive sales to a whole season of them, it is still the busiest shopping day of the year. According to data from Adobe Digital Insights, U.S. consumers spent a record $5 billion on Black Friday this year, up 16.9 percent from last year.

Although the numbers hit a record high in the USA, they were still no match for the US$25.4 billion total online sales recorded during the 24-hour Singles' Day sales on Nov 11 - Alibaba's largest shopping festival.

In the run-up to the holiday weekend, traditional retailers invested heavily in improving their websites and bulking up delivery options, preempting a decline in visits to brick-and-mortar stores. Several chains tightened store inventories as well, to ward off any post-holiday liquidation that would weigh on profits.

According to Ipsos Retail Performance, UK footfall on Black Friday was up 0.95 per cent year-on-year, with 42 per cent of retailers experiencing footfall growth. There was little sign of the wild shopper frenzy customary of Black Fridays from last years. Meanwhile, store visits exclusively on Black Friday dropped less than 1 percent compared with 2016, essentially remaining unchanged.

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Brian Field, ShopperTrak's senior director, said that there had been an important amount of debate surrounding the shifting importance of brick-and-mortar retail. The modest drop, amid a big upswing in online sales, "illustrates that physical retail is still highly relevant and, when done right, profitable", a Shoppertrak spokesperson told CNBC. The National Retail Federation (NRF) said fair weather across much of the nation had helped draw shoppers into stores.

Black Friday follows Thanksgiving Day that is observed on the fourth Thursday of November, heralding the Christmas shopping season.

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