Black Friday no longer a single day as retailers “go early”

Black Friday

While today, Friday 29 November, is officially Black Friday – sticking with the US date for the retail event, falling the day after Thanksgiving, it seems online retailers are increasingly starting their campaigns earlier or spreading them out for longer.

According to strategy and insight director, Andy Mulcahy, at IMRG – the UK’s industry association for online retail – Black Friday has stopped being restricted to a single day of discounting, with campaigns often extending over a weekend, a week, or even the whole of November.

Every day in November, IMRG has been monitoring 300 retail sites to see when they launch their Black Friday campaigns. By Friday 15 November 2019, two weeks before the official Black Friday, 15 had already launched their official campaigns. In comparison, on the Friday two weeks before the official Black Friday in 2018, only seven campaigns were live.

A week before the official day, the number of online retailers “going early” was even more of a gap. Last year saw 44 of 260 tracked launching Black Friday deals the Friday before the official day, while last Friday saw 87 of 300 tracked hit the big black button. By yesterday, Thursday 28 November, 211 of the 300 online retailers tracked had their campaigns live.

Mulcahy says: “From what we’ve heard from retailers, Friday 22 November does seem to have been a big online shopping day. While we won’t be able to 100% quantify that until next week, the data which we do already have – from Monday to Wednesday this week – has featured stronger-than-anticipated online sales growth.

“This might seem like good news for retailers, as it suggests a shift in shopper demand following a tough year. Three days into the eight-day period we define as the Black Friday peak, performance is far ahead of our 2-3% forecast we put out earlier this month.”

However, Mulcahy reports with caution as, while making those sales early in the peak period could be seen as positive, the impact an early spike will have on order volumes later in the week and, indeed, into December, is as yet unknown.

There would appear to be two possible outcomes here – either the Black Friday period is going to be very successful this year, against expectations, and deliver a sustained period of strong sales growth, or a lot of the volume has been dragged forward and will drop off over the Black Friday weekend, which has traditionally been the busiest period.

“If that should happen, 2019 will go down as the year that ‘Black Friday’ stopped being on Black Friday,” concludes Mulcahy.