With this year being the first normal festive trading period since the pandemic, but with the additional aspect of significant economic challenges, all eyes are on Black Friday. Will the importance of this for consumers return to pre-Covid levels? Will it have diminished? Or will it return with a vengeance and drive more activity and spending in stores and destinations?
Springboard has been tracking footfall on Black Friday since 2014, and in each year up to 2019 footfall on Black Friday was at least +15% higher than the week before. But the outcomes for retail destinations on an annual basis have varied from year to year, ranging from a rise of +9.8% (2014) to a drop of -5.4% (2018) with a modest uplift of +3.3% in 2019. Over the two Covid years of 2020 and 2021 inevitably footfall on Black Friday was way outside of what had been the norm; the increase from the week before was lower (+9.2% in 2020 and +6.9% in 2021) and the change on an annual basis swung from -60.1% in 2021 to a staggering +106.1% in 2021.
Forecast increase in footfall on Black Friday
Springboard is forecasting that this year footfall across UK retail destinations on Black Friday will be +15.9% higher than on Black Friday 2021.
The uplift will be driven by a rise in footfall of +15.9% on Black Friday from the week before as shoppers make the most of available discounts to purchase Christmas gifts as they endeavour to outpace inflation, just announced to have risen to 11.1%. A further driver of footfall over Black Friday is likely to be potential stock shortages of desired gifts due to increased supply costs incurred by retailers which may limit stock replenishment. This is likely to provide a greater incentive for shoppers to purchase Christmas gifts early rather than wait and run the risk of their favoured gift being out of stock.
As household budgets become increasingly squeezed shoppers become more discerning in their purchasing decisions. This creates a greater desire amongst shoppers to browse and purchase in physical retail stores rather than online, as they are able to engage more fully with the product and feel more confident that they are making the correct purchasing decision. The greater attraction of physical shopping is also being compounded by the increase in postage charges for delivery and returns for online purchases that are increasingly being introduced.
In addition to this, for many shoppers Black Friday will provide the first opportunity this year to savour the Christmas spirit and to enjoy the Christmas decorations and lights installed in high streets and shopping centres, particularly as many shoppers stayed away from physical stores over the previous two years.
Increase in footfall across the three key destination types but shopping centres will benefit most
Shopping centres are particularly attractive over Black Friday as their retailers tend to actively participate in Black Friday discounts that consumers will be looking to make the most of. Therefore while Springboard is forecasting increases in footfall from 2021 across all three key destination types, shopping centres are likely to benefit more from Black Friday than other destination types with an increase in footfall of +16.3% versus +13.2% in high streets and +8.5% in retail parks.
The greater uplift in footfall from last year in shopping centres will be due to a larger rise from the previous Friday than in high streets or retail parks (+20.1% in shopping centres vs +15.7% in high streets and +11.8% in retail parks).
Last year footfall in high streets on Black Friday declined from the week before by -0.3% versus rises of +17.3% in shopping centres and +11.8% in retail parks. However, this was likely to have been an anomaly of Covid when shoppers were cautious about visiting congested town centres in contrast to the perceived greater safety of larger managed spaces of shopping centres and retail parks.
In every year prior to Covid footfall in high streets rose by more than +10% on Black Friday averaging +19.9% between 2014 and 2019 and peaking at +29.3% in 2014, +21.3% in 2016 and +25% in 2019. In contrast, the week on week increase in footfall in shopping centres on Black Friday over the equivalent six year period averaged +25.2% an +18.4% in retail parks.
Footfall on Black Friday will still remain lower than in 2019
Despite the forecast increase in footfall on Black Friday from the previous week and from 2021, footfall across all retail destinations will remain -7.8% lower than on Black Friday in 2019. In high streets the gap from the 2019 footfall level will be -9.5% and -12.1% in shopping centres but footfall in retail parks will rise to +0.5% above the 2021 level.