Black Friday is going to be different this year. Here’s why.

6 Oct, 2020

To say this year’s global pandemic has shaken things up around the world could potentially be the understatement of the century. And the world of retail is no exception. With all non-essential businesses closing for three months from March to June, the UK spiralled into the worst recession for over 300 years. As the shutters went down, high street footfall dwindled to a bare minimum - a pretty bleak picture compared to the usual hustle and bustle.

With most shops now reopened, with strict social distancing measures and capacity restrictions, it’s clear the events of the last six months are going to have a huge impact on this year’s Black Friday sales. Back in the pre-pandemic world, November’s shopping scene was epitomised by eager crowds, empty shelves and heaps of doorbuster deals on big ticket items. This year? We’re predicting even bigger discounts and even more shoppers shunning the high street in favour of their laptop. Looking forward to November, here are our predictions for Black Friday 2020.

Black Friday 2020 predictions

Bigger discounts

Retail sales crashed record amounts this year as the world went into lockdown. In the UK alone, the amount of goods sold dropped an eye-watering 18.1%. Could the Black Friday period mark the perfect comeback opportunity for retailers? We’re predicting even bigger, better discounts than usual to grab shoppers’ interest, giving brands a much-needed boost. Plus, huge sales and exciting discounts are a surefire way to reignite shoppers’ spirits and lift morale ahead of the Christmas season. Last year’s data from Salecycle reveals that the average discount in 2019 was 32% - this year we’re predicting that to jump up to at least 40%.

Longer discounts

With bricks and mortar shops having to shut their doors for a long three months, thousands of retailers will still be holding onto huge stock inventory they’ll be keen to shift come November. High street giant Primark recorded over £1.5bn worth of surplus stock in May - and that’s just the beginning. Because of this, we predict an even longer sales period around Black Friday to try and maximise sales and reduce inventory overflow from warehouses. While a lot of retailers normally start slashing prices during the week of Black Friday, we think brands will start their sales even earlier this year, with some even starting at the beginning of November as a Black Friday ‘month’ rather than day or week. We’ve already seen the term ‘Blackvember’ floating around and we think it has a ring to it...

Online sales will boom

Black Friday has become more and more of an online experience for the last couple of years and we’re pretty certain the events of the last six months will push even more bargain-hungry shoppers online. In April, the peak of lockdown in the UK, the ONS reported that online shopping as a proportion of all retail reached a record high of 31%. All retailers apart from those selling clothing or household goods saw record amounts being spent with them online.

At Savoo, our overall sales volume grew 10% during lockdown alongside a 25% rise in the number of orders compared to the same time last year, confirming the shift to online. And even when physical stores eventually reopened, people were still more inclined to shop online rather than in-store. More and more people pledged to continue spending online, which was also reflected in our overall sales which were up 3% from January to August compared to the same period in 2019. When speaking to our users, almost half of them said they’d shopped online more during lockdown, with one user Jenny Kallin saying she has ‘moved completely to online shopping’.

Despite Chancellor Rishi’s attempts to gently nudge the public back to the high street with his proposed online sales tax, we think thousands of shoppers who usually shop in-store will steer clear of the high street in favour of their laptop when the Black Friday sales hit. With coronavirus fears still lingering and social distancing rule breaking running amok in shops and supermarkets, it’s hard to imagine physical Black Friday shopping events as we’ve seen before.

More small businesses will get involved

This year, the importance of supporting small businesses has been highlighted tenfold. And with more and more shoppers deciding to turn their backs on big corporations and shop local during the midst of the pandemic, over two thirds (62%) agreed they’ll continue staying loyal to local businesses in the future.

One shopper Samantha Smith said: “The pandemic has definitely made me think differently about shopping at local businesses. I live in a village in which the local business did their best where possible to support the community so I felt it important to support them back." We predict these promising stats and shift in consumer behaviour will encourage more independent businesses to get involved with the Black Friday buzz as a way of boosting sales and visibility for their brand. With more small businesses investing in their online presence and shopping experience in the wake of the pandemic, we think Black Friday is the next stepping stone to increasing online sales.

People will be spending on different things

It’s not just how people are shopping that we predict will change, it’s what they’re shopping too. It comes as no surprise that shopping habits began to shift when lockdown hit and the majority of people were staying home. One shopper, Cate McAlinden said: “I normally buy electronics during Black Friday, but we have already bought new ones with being stuck at home recently."

We’re expecting this ‘new normal’, and the shopping trends that come with it, are here to stay until the end of the year, at least. In line with this, we predict people will spend less on travel and fashion and more on beauty, home & garden and tech this year.

While we’re all eager to pack our bags and get away, the travel industry is still shrouded in uncertainty and could be massively hit this November. Unsurprisingly, there aren’t any travel operators that made it into Savoo’s 100 highest revenue retailers for 2020, a sector that usually accounts for a huge chunk of sales. Plus, while Savoo saw a 12% increase in the number of orders so far this year, the average order value fell 10%, suggesting people are reluctant to splash out on those big value purchases like holidays.

With regards to fashion, we’re expecting spends to be fairly flat this year. With big Christmas parties looking unlikely and the recent shift towards staying home more, we don’t think fashion spends will be anything to write home about, despite retailers’ predicted attempts to get rid of stock with big discounts.

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. We’re expecting big spends in beauty this year as shoppers are treating themselves to quality skincare and at home treatments to help them feel good. In 2020 so far, we’ve seen an 87% increase in beauty sales - a trend we predict to continue throughout Black Friday. Similarly, home & garden and tech are set to be big this year, as people are choosing to invest in good quality homeware and electronics as they get used to staying at home more. Tech and electronics has seen a 58% rise in order value so far this year, and we think shoppers will continue to spend on tech come November.

Despite everything, people will still spend more than last year

This year has seen unemployment levels rise and the economy shrink. Despite this, we think British shoppers just can’t wait to get spending this Black Friday. As has been seen in previous years, we’re expecting shoppers to use the sales to get their Christmas shopping list done and dusted. Surprisingly, we’ve already seen a 61% increase in gift sales this year and are expecting that figure to increase even further.

Looking at UK spend figures for the last five years, we’re predicting a slight increase in overall spend on Black Friday this year, taking into consideration shifted shopping habits and brands’ willingness to offer big discounts.

  • 2015: £1.1bn
  • 2016: £1.23bn
  • 2017: £1.39bn
  • 2018: £1.49bn
  • 2019: £1.51bn
  • 2020: Prediction £1.52bn

(Figures from IMRG)

Brands will offer a better online experience

During lockdown, retailers and small businesses in particular were forced to improve their online user experience. And with more and more people continuing to shop online, Black Friday will prove challenging for those who haven’t kept up. Even before the pandemic, last year’s Black Friday sales saw 53% of carts abandoned due to poor site load time - a devastating blow for small retailers who simply hadn’t invested in their online store. If we’ve learnt anything this year, it’s that online stores offering fast checkouts, quick delivery, intuitive user experience, good stock levels and quick load times will flourish.

Black Friday is changing - here’s what it means for you

In essence, we think Black Friday will give the retail sector the welcome boost it needs. We’re expecting more people moving online, more spending, bigger discounts and longer sales, so it goes without saying that we think it’ll serve as a much-needed retail pick-up for the UK. Sure enough, Black Friday will be different this year - that’s a certain. But change isn’t always a bad thing.

This year, it’s crucial to plan ahead of time if you’re hoping to get your hands on some great deals. Based on our predictions, our top tips for a successful Black Friday 2020 are:

  • It’s more important than ever to plan ahead as more shoppers will be online than usual.
  • Don’t leave it until the Friday. Start early for a better chance of bagging the best deals.
  • With more small businesses catching the Black Friday bug, shopping around is a must.