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So, how did the retail industry deal with Black Friday?

Date: December 07, 2015

Category: Industry news

Author: Gary Lynch

Gary Lynch CEO GS1 UKGary Lynch, CEO at GS1 UK, examines how retailers dealt with 2015’s busiest shopping day

Every Black Friday, retailers deal with a massive spike in customer demand and need to find effective ways to be able to deliver what their customers want. In my last article, I questioned how this year’s Black Friday would pan out – so let’s see what did happen. Were there any lessons learnt or any new trends that set apart?

According to IMRG, online sales during Black Friday 2015 were expected to surpass the £1bn mark in the UK. This was succeeded with the day’s online spend reaching £1.1bn (of which £495m was spent on smartphones and tablets alone!).

This record breaking spending – 36% increase year-on-year – occurred only during the 24 hours of Black Friday. The much bigger amount of money spent emphasises the fact that consumers are becoming ever more sophisticated in the way they shop and they now choose to use multiple fulfilment options to suit their needs – in store, click and collect, delivery to home, delivery to a collection point and more.

What we also observed this year was the extension of many offers for a few days before and after Black Friday. Retailers are doing this so they can manage the spiked demand more effectively and provide better customer service. For example, deals on continued well into the weekend too – even though it reported that last Friday surpassed all expectations and it was its busiest day ever with around 86 items sold every single second.

The noted winner of last year’s Black Friday, John Lewis also did well this year with Black Friday proving to be a record sales day. John Lewis reported sales were up 4.8% on last year, making this their biggest ever week for sales in their history, at £187.7m. Also, online sales on were up 15.5% year-on-year.

Black Friday may just be one day, or as we’ve seen this year a bit longer than just a day, but it’s so powerful that it does emphasise the new retail trends that are coming or are already here – for example the challenge of managing the inevitable returns that follow such a spike in demand after a busy day like that. In the past customers would most often return their items to the shop they bought it from – but now because of the big variety of solutions and processes used, the returns process is equally complicated.

The other trend we notice is the increasing growth in omnichannel retailing. More and more people choose to shop online and demand a seamless shopping experience every time. Consumers are simply more empowered than ever before and have increasingly high expectations of product information, product availability and the overall buying experience regardless of the channel they use.

So the trends that pave the future are already here – what does the industry do about them? At GS1 UK, we’re working with retailers and other key industry players, as well as many logistics companies, to facilitate a better way of working and help streamline the returns process. Also, we recently launched our new marketplace sellers' portal to help marketplace sellers sell online and grow their business – this Black Friday was the first time ever that Amazon Marketplace sellers participated in the deals.

The industry seems to be ready to collaborate and move away from the disconnect that currently exists between what consumers expect and what retailers can provide.