Will Black Friday affect high street footfall again?

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Black Friday

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast approaching, retailers around the UK are already looking at how they can reach maximum sales targets during that long weekend.

And for the retailers that operate in both online and in traditional bricks-and-mortar formats, questions are being raised on how to ensure the footfall during that long weekend at the end of November does not suffer as much as it did in 2015.

Imported from the US and only implemented by retailers two years ago, international giants like Amazon are responsible for bringing this sales event to the UK – alas, the onus is on online sales rather than the US’ in-store sales and frenzied crowds.

According to a study conducted by Clavis Insight, Black Friday 2015 was the first UK online event to break the £1 billion sales mark, but in-store traffic dipped by four per cent compared to the same period in 2014.

The footfall figures are slightly worse from Springboard. According to the firm, in 2015 it fell by 6.7 per cent compared with the same Black Friday/Cyber Monday period the previous year. But in 2014, footfall went up by 2.3 per cent year-on-year.

READ MORE: Comment – The pitfalls and potential of Black Friday

“As Black Friday and Cyber Monday are new dates in the UK retail calendar, we don’t have much evidence yet to prove the impact it has on footfall and bricks and mortar trading,” Springboard marketing and insights director Diane Wehrle told the Retail Gazette.

“Our data shows footfall rose in 2014 over the weekend, but footfall fell last year as we saw the trading focus on online offers rather than in-store promotions.”

Wehrle said one way retailers could ensure they don’t lose footfall traffic was to shift the focus to in-store experiences rather than online.

“If retailers announce that prices will remain the same, without discounting, but focus on the promotion of their ranges and in-store experience then it will send out a clear message to shoppers that it is ‘business as usual’,” she said.

“They could also cater to online shoppers by offering click and collect, as well as promotions for shoppers attached to this to drive footfall to stores, for example, ‘come in-store to get your discount voucher’.”

READ MORE: Can retailers do badly out of Black Friday?

Elizabetta Camilleri, the chief executive of digital fashion platform Shopological, believes retailers should offer exclusive in-store promotions in order to drive footfall during the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend – but they also need to question if it’s sensible.

“This can bring complications if the same items are offered at full price online,” she told the Retail Gazette.

“However, it’s increasingly unusual to see promotions exclusively in-store, shops tend to offer their customers the choice of how they want to shop.

“Many customers find it a better experience to shop online, without the crowds and the queues, and it makes sense for retailers to offer both.”

Camilleri added that retailers should avoid mirroring the US by promoting mayhem or overcrowding in the high street during this weekend, as it does not lead to a pleasant shopping experience.

“If you have a lot of stock to get rid of over the weekend, it is not necessarily prudent to create crowding in store and risk frustrating or angering your customers?” she said.

“It makes more sense to share offers between online and in-store, and allow customers to choose to buy online if the store is busy.”

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