Belfast Telegraph

Shoppers lukewarm on chilly Black Friday


By Claire McNeilly

If retailers were relying on Black Friday to boost their pre-Christmas takings they may well be crying into their tills today.

Gone were the early bird bargain hunters, manic mid-afternoon deal seekers and frantic after-work shoppers that have characterised previous years.

And there were none of the in-store scuffles or tussling over products that previously hit the headlines when people went into battle in supermarkets in pursuit of festive discounts.

In Northern Ireland - where we can reveal footfall was down a staggering 12% on the same day last year - Black Friday came and went with more of a sales whimper than a big retail bang.

When the Belfast Telegraph took to the streets around noon we met hundreds of contented shoppers who told us they'd bagged themselves plenty of items at knockdown prices.

But there was nothing to suggest that it lived up to its billing as one of the biggest dates in the local shopping calendar, with Northern Ireland consumers expected to spend around £50m in total yesterday alone.

Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, which tracks footfall, said the high street turnout compared to last Black Friday "wasn't great".

"Footfall in Northern Ireland was down 12.4% from 9am to 3pm; it was also down 9.7% in the UK as a whole," she said.

"People are more savvy around Black Friday and the fact that the discounting isn't as great as it's imagined to be, and also the discounting happened before, and will continue after, Black Friday.

"They are also going online. We therefore expect to see footfall increase over the weekend as a result of click and collect sales."

Retailers are relying on a successful weekend and are hoping consumers will spend confidently despite the first increase in interest rates in 10 years and a squeeze on disposable income driven by rising inflation and stagnant wage growth.

Big-name chains including Tesco and Argos extended their high street opening hours and many retailers had already offered days of deals, but several others, from luxury brands to discounters, opted out.

UK consumers are expected to spend £7.8bn over the four-day period including Cyber Monday, up 7% on last year, according to predictions by VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

We'll soon see if those predictions are realised, but it already appears as though prudent Northern Ireland shoppers have fallen out of love with Black Friday.

Belfast Telegraph

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