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Black Friday set to lead sales charge in year of unprecedented change

Gaelle Walker
12 November 2020

This year’s Black Friday event on 27 November will remain the biggest shopping event of the 2020 holiday season, as retailers continue to trade against a background unprecedented changes in shopper behaviour and the re-introduction of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.

New research from Periscope by McKinsey found that globally, Black Friday is still leading the pack when it comes to blockbuster deal events, with an expected 56% participation this year, ahead of the recent Amazon Prime Day 43%, Cyber Monday (30 November) at 39% and pre-Christmas sales at 38%.

In the UK, Black Friday is expected to overtake the Boxing Day sales as the most popular shopping day of the year with 61.4% planning to participate, ahead of boxing day sales at 49.9%, the report: 2020 Holiday Season: Navigating shopper behaviors in the pandemic said.

Black Friday is also expected to sit well ahead of pre-Christmas sales which have an expected 38.6% participation.

Black Friday

However, Black Friday events will need to be sensitive to shopper anxiety, the report warned.

With “shopper anxiety and stress” a strong feature of this year’s holiday season, (36% of UK shoppers are reporting it) retailers will need to focus on delivering impressive experiences at scale, stock availability and great value for money deals.

Physical stores that remain open for trading under lockdown rules will also need to instil confidence in their COVID-19-safe environments, the report added.

The insights, gleaned from interviews with more than 3,500 holiday shoppers in the UK, France, Germany, the US and China, show that the pandemic has induced a number of changes in behaviours that are now set to remain part of the retail experience; ramping up the stakes for this year’s holiday shopping season like never before.

With brand loyalty remaining vulnerable, retailers will also need to work harder than ever before to attract new shoppers and win back those who were previously loyal to their brand, the report said.

Targeting shoppers with appealing, relevant gift ideas could help to restore loyalty, along with high levels of personalisation and social media engagement, which are already playing a key role in purchases this year, the report added.

In addition, 31% of shoppers say they will use social media for holiday research and ideas, and 23% say that personalised campaigns could trigger a gift purchase. 

The report’s findings also agreed with other studies which have suggested that the holiday shopping season is likely to kick off earlier than normal this year.

Holiday shoppers in the UK are most likely to get a head start with 56% saying they plan to start earlier than last year.   

“Retailers are initially responding to the early demand by expanding blockbuster sale days to multi-day events, spanning a week or more, and starting them earlier,” the report said.

“Now, the emphasis is on how the retailers governed by new shutdown restrictions can pivot to provide digital browsing experiences for consumers,” it added.

And while holiday shoppers are expected to flock to digital channels over the holiday shopping season, consumer desire to browse festive displays in shops is expected to make a return post lockdowns.

The development will require retailers to demonstrate clear COVID-19 safety measures in order to foster greater confidence and help mitigate anxiety and stress levels, the report said.

“The holiday shopping season in Europe has been thrown a curve ball. Retailers need to course-correct their holiday strategies and empathise with consumer disappointment and elevated anxiety levels,” Brian Ruwadi, senior partner and global leader of Periscope by McKinsey said.

“The focus should be on recalibrating supply chains and introducing new omni-channel browsing experiences, to cater for changes in restrictions.

“Globally, we are seeing holiday emotions and behaviors follow the curve of the pandemic. The savvy retailers will be pre-empting changes based on the predicted infection rate.”

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