Black Friday in the UK

Published Nov 29, 2023

Tristan Findlay, UK Sales Director - Media, Entertainment, Sport & Tech at Toluna

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Just like that, we’ve turned focus from the hype and deals of Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the realisation that Christmas is only four weeks away. But how do UK consumers feel about Black Friday? How did retailers fare? Which categories grew? Did people spend more or less? And do they even care about Black Friday?

For the third year in a row, Toluna fielded a survey over US Thanksgiving weekend, among 500 people in each of the UK and The Netherlands, to see how this US-led phenomenon is impacting the way we shop.

What did people spend?

While excitement about Black Friday doesn’t match the excitement surrounding the Christmas sales, it has significantly increased in the UK this year, with 49% of consumers excited about the spectacle; the same can’t be said for Cyber Monday at just 39%.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, there was an increase in purchasing activity. Sixty-two percent of UK consumers claim to have purchased something on Black Friday versus 58% in 2022. On top of that, half of Black Friday shoppers said they purchased more this year than last—as opposed to 17% who said they spent less.

“It’s an American thing”

Scepticism and cost-of-living pressures remain, though. Of those not convinced by the spectacle of Black Friday, the reasons are similar to previous years. Almost 60% said it’s a ‘way for brands to manipulate people’ and over 40% said the ‘discounts are not attractive enough.’ Financial pressures have also increased, as 27% said they are struggling with their finances, up from 22% in 2022.

Interestingly, while the same concerns exist for those not looking forward to Christmas sales, they also cite the lack of tradition of Black Friday sales in the UK. For many, Black Friday is seen as an American event not relevant for those in the UK. As one consumer put it, “As I live in Britain, I do not celebrate Thanksgiving. Therefore, Black Friday is not relevant to me.”

Category & retail trends

In terms of categories shopped:

• Clothing remains clear at the top, with 41% of Black Friday shoppers buying clothes.

• Perfume remains second at 27%; it is also the category with the highest YoY increase, up from 23% in 2022.

• Footwear and skincare make up the next most popular categories at 24% and 20%, respectively.

• The largest YoY decreases were seen by food (-9%pt), mobile phones (-4%pt) and wine (-4%pt).

Accordingly, almost all supermarkets included in the survey declined in terms of YoY Black Friday traffic: Asda (-5%pt), Tesco & Co-op (-4%pt) and Morrison’s (-2%pt). The only outlet bucking the trend was Sainsburys (+2%pt).

Amazon saw no such drop, with a whopping 63% of Black Friday shoppers saying they shopped there (+1%pt YoY). Argos saw a healthy increase (+7%pt), placing it at number two among retailers at 29%. John Lewis (+5%pt) and M&S (+4%pt) also saw healthy YOY growth, with 16% of respondents claiming to have shopped at each.

Purchase preparation

Consumers noticed an increase in both the number of shops participating in Black Friday and the number of days available to shop Black Friday deals. This likely coincides with when people started searching for deals this year. While 51% search for deals during the week of Black Friday (-5%pt YoY), just 12% left deal-hunting to the day itself (-2%pt). Meanwhile, nine percent of UK shoppers searched for deals a month or more in advance (+5%pt).

Early indications from retailers and banks point to a drop in overall spend in the UK this year. With cost-of-living concerns continuing to rise and Black Friday falling before pay day for a lot of UK consumers (unlike in 2022), that is not surprising. That being said, there is still immense incremental potential for brands, retailers and categories that get Black Friday right, with 46% of people claiming they purchased something unplanned.

Get in touch with Toluna!

If you’d like any further information about this study, please reach out to me or any member of the UK Toluna team. The survey, which we also fielded in The Netherlands, took just 30 minutes to script on our market-leading Toluna Start platform, and it only took 9 hours to complete fieldwork. Whenever you’re in need of quick insight, quality sample, and flexible research support, get in touch!

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