black friday shopping uk

How can the U.K’s small businesses get involved in Black Friday?

So, it’s Black Friday again. The U.K.’s queuing up outside department stores, hovering over their mouses, and zooming in on the items they’ve had their eyes on for months. Black Friday used to be “that thing they did in America", but now instead of laughing at our friends across the pond fight over TVs, we’re bookmarking our favourite deals and awaiting the countdown. 

Joining in the Black Friday buzz has become crucial for businesses everywhere, and not just the big ones. Times are changing, and consumers are more interested in shopping local and supporting small businesses. So, how can the small businesses of the U.K. join in this November 29th? 

Shopping local: How small businesses are taking over the U.K.

When you look at the data, there’s nothing “small” about small businesses at all. The Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy found that at the start of 2018, 99.9% of the 5.7 million registered businesses in the U.K. were either small or medium in size. 

That’s nearly 100% of the U.K. economy and the figure is expected to continue growing… 

Small businesses are instrumental to the economy, so why do large corporations get all the attention on Black Friday and Cyber Monday? Initiatives like Small Business Saturday are changing this, by shining a spotlight on shopping local. 

Spending and trending 

How much do we spend on Black Friday sales in the UK? 

According to comparison site, finder, in 2018, the average Brit spent £220 on Black Friday, and 37% of us will put off buying something until it's on sale. But let’s dive a little deeper.

The generational breakdown

  1. Gen X spent the most, averaging £264

  2. Baby boomers followed in second with an average spend of £214

  3. Last but not least, 18-35-year-olds spent an average of £190 

The regional breakdown

  1. The north-east spent the most with an average of £286

  2. Northern Irish residents spend an average of £285

  3. Londoners splashed out an average of £279 on deals 

  4. The average shopper in the south-west spends roughly £139 

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What are we buying? 

As a small business, there are a few spending trends to look out for before considering getting involved. PWC’s survey highlighted a few of these. 

The most popular type of product on Black Friday is electricals. Slowly but surely, they've made their way to number one on the purchase list, with 3 in 5 people buying electronics within the spending holiday. 

In contrast to last year, survey respondents said they would be keeping an eye out for fashion deals, with a specific interest in clothing, stocking fillers, toys, and beauty products.

Who are we buying for? 

While you might assume Black Friday is a great time to go Christmas shopping, only 1 in 5 people use it for that reason. 

Surprisingly, three-quarters of under 25s and two-thirds of men expect to only spend on themselves. Showing a little more generosity, two-thirds of female shoppers anticipate buying gifts for their families. 

Finally, PWC found that the age group most likely to purchase for their friends were 18-24 year-olds.

How are we buying? 

It’s no secret that the way we shop has changed. Practically everything has moved online, and Black Friday is no different. This year, three-quarters of Black Friday shopping is predicted to take place online. 

The combination of an increase in online shopping activity and shoppers wanting to avoid long queues and bargain fights may have something to do with this.

“Over a third of 35-44-year-olds’ spend overall will be via mobile.”

Why should small businesses participate?

Black Friday brings more spending than Christmas on things like electricals, beauty products, and toys. So if you don't participate, you won't just miss some serious sales, you'll also send customers right to larger competitors. 

Many retailers don’t participate in the event to avoid negatively impacting their Christmas sales. But actually, the opposite happens. After surveying high street stores, PWC found that spending has shifted in the last 5 years thanks to Black Friday: 

“In the past two years, we’ve seen retailers launch special promotions for the Black Friday period, before returning to full price and thus preserving margin in the key Christmas present buying period of early-to-mid December, and then discounting once again in the week before Christmas and into the Boxing Day and January sales.”

How can small businesses participate? 

It’s not all about flashy discounts. There are a few logistics to consider as well.  

As the majority of shoppers will be visiting your store online, you need to make sure your website is working perfectly. CEO of Reaction Commerce Sara Hicks says websites crashing is a common reason businesses lose money on Black Friday.  

"The key to avoiding a website failure during a busy shopping day includes testing, building up your backend and a backup plan. It's integral to understand what your platform can handle in terms of email blasts driving extra traffic, promotions that may get picked up by other sites and more.” 

You’ll also need to consider your in-store experience. Your shop will be busier, which means you'll need to overcome the rush. Create a flow in your store by considering everything from the positioning of your products to the capabilities of your card reader. Speedy checkout is incredibly important. 

Consider how your business can accommodate and benefit from current Black Friday trends, and be prepared when it comes to stock and shipping. Stay on top of shipping costs and times, and be prepared for returns and exchanges. 

Finally, the most significant move you can make is investing in strong marketing. Make your offer heard, tease the event, and be sure to get the message out there in the run-up to Black Friday. Many retailers even have their sales go live for one or two weeks before the big day.

Anna Marie Allgaier