Black Friday footfall +35% week-on-week, but early festive shoppers fail to reach pre-pandemic levels

Early Christmas shopping boosts Black Friday footfall on the UK High Street, with shopper traffic up +35% week-on-week, according to Sensormatic Solutions, the leading global retail solutions portfolio of Johnson Controls.

Data from its footfall index, which captures over 40billion global shopper visits annually, showed that while Black Friday shopper traffic saw a +35% uplift week-on-week, even early festive footfall failed to drive shopper numbers to pre-pandemic levels, which remained down -23% compared to 2019.

Andy Sumpter, EMEA Retail Consultant at Sensormatic Solutions, commented:

“Despite not reaching pre-pandemic levels, Christmas has started to come early for High Street retailers, who will be welcoming the Black Friday boost to trade that traditionally marks the start of the festive season.  Over the past 12months, we have seen a slow but steady resurgence of High Street shopping, as consumer confidence has grown and demand for in-person shopping has risen.”

Black Friday footfall was bolstered by an early surge in Christmas shopping, with consumers choosing to buy early in a bid to avoid supply chain disruption, out-of-stocks and shipping delays to festive gifts.  Original research of over 1,000 UK shoppers in Sensormatic’s UK Retail: Shopper Sentiment Report showed 79% had planned to start Christmas shopping before the beginning of December, with a third (34%) starting gift buying in November, up +7 percentage points compared to 2020.

And, with the CBI warning consumers face the biggest price hikes in 30 years alongside growing price sensitivity among UK consumers – 57% of consumers are more price sensitive now compared to before the pandemic, according to Pricer’s data – shoppers hit the High Street to make the most of the deals during the discounting event yesterday.

“Retailers will be hoping that initial Black Friday success doesn’t turn into a ‘blue Monday’ and that demand can be sustained into December, their most crucial trading period,” Andy Sumpter, continued. “That relies on smoothing out bumps in supply chains to reduce shelf-gaps, so consumers can be confident the items they want will be available when they shop, as well as leveraging click-and-collect capabilities in-store to ease the burden on the digital fulfilment network when demand rises.”

Bricks-and-mortar shopping on Black Friday has had mixed performance in the UK over the last 5 years, as consumer and retailers’ adoption of the event – with leading retailers such as M&S and Next bowing out of the event in recent years – has shifted, along with the ongoing online migration of the discounting event.  After dipping to -3% YoY in 2018, in-store footfall on Black Friday bounced back to +9% YoY in 2019, before plummeting to -79% YoY in 2020 as the national covid-19 lockdown shuttered stores and the event went 100% digital as shops remained shut.

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