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Black Friday footfall expected to drop as shoppers go online

Retail intelligence experts Springboard have forecast that Black Friday and the following weekend will do “very little to help the beleaguered high street”.

Footfall is anticipated to drop by 3.7% year-on-year compared with last year and down 2.7% over the weekend as a whole. This follows a decline in footfall on Black Friday 2017 of 3.6%, and 1.1% over weekend, suggesting the UK’s appetite for this pre-Christmas spending spree may be wavering.

Online transactions are forecast to rise by 4% on Black Friday 2018, lower than the rise of 5.5% on Black Friday last year. However, Springboard has forecast over the weekend they will decline by 5% compared with last year. This is mostly due to the fact that they rose significantly last year from 2016, by 24.2% on Saturday and by 25.8% on Sunday. The analysts predict this rate of growth will be difficult to maintain in the current climate.

Footfall and spending activity over this year’s Black Friday period is likely to be impacted by the economic pressures, such as high debt levels and living costs, that have limited retail spend and driven a decline in footfall and online spending throughout 2018. This pressure on spending and reduced disposable income will be further affected by Black Friday taking place a week earlier this year, meaning consumers will not be paid until the week after, possibly forcing them to delay spending or rely on credit, which is already at its highest level since 2007.

The anticipated decline in footfall and limited growth in online transactions is likely to be worsened by the heavy discounting seen throughout the year, along with the debate around whether Black Friday discounts are truly discounts. This debated has initiated the promotion of price comparison websites which allow consumers to see if a product has ever been sold for less than the Black Friday sale price.

It is forecast that high streets and shopping centres will be hit the hardest, whilst footfall in retail parks is likely to decline by only 1% on Black Friday itself, and rising marginally by 0.2% on the Saturday.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “Whatever happens on Black Friday, our data over the past few years has established that it brings Christmas spending forward. This creates a magnet of spending activity at the beginning the peak trading period which then suppresses spending until the final week before Christmas, when consumers take advantage of last minute deals that are likely to be introduced by retailers to drive sales in what is a highly challenging trading climate.”

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