The Black Friday promotional extravaganza meant Christmas came in November for John Lewis but, despite slower sales in recent days, store chiefs expect a bumper finish to December as shoppers get a second wind.
John Lewis’s retail director, Andrew Murphy, predicted that Saturday would kick off a “pretty intense” burst of trade in its stores as Britons packed their shopping into five frenetic days, including Christmas Eve. From sales trends the retailer could see that, as with last year, shoppers were leaving their gift-buying to the last minute, he said.
John Lewis rang up sales of £150.7m in the week to Saturday, just ahead of last year but down nearly 6% on the previous week’s takings. Murphy anticipated trading for this week would also be flattish, but added: “From Saturday there will be a second wind and we are expecting it to be pretty intense through to the end of Christmas Eve.”
The Black Friday mania that swept the high street at the end of November resulted in John Lewis’s best week of sales in its 150-year history. The retailer sold an unprecedented £179m worth of goods in the seven days to 29 November as Britons flocked to buy discounted televisions and computers.
Murphy said that while the Black Friday week’s haul would be hard to beat, daily records could still fall: “Other than Black Friday, the biggest days are yet to come. With fewer than 10 days to go until Christmas, it’s still all to play for.”
While some retailers, including Tesco and Marks & Spencer, and parcel carriers struggled to cope with the spike in demand created by Black Friday promotions, John Lewis said its systems and processes had stood up to the test, with click and collect orders up 31%.
By comparison, M&S has had to withdraw the option of next-day delivery to its stores and Yodel says their deliveries could be delayed by up to 48 hours.
Analysts think Black Friday pulled some Christmas spending forward, and that was reflected in the performance of John Lewis’s electricals department, where the latest figures show sales were down 4% on the previous week. According to the IMRG Capgemini e-Retail Sales Index, which tracks online spending, the promotional event pushed November internet retail sales 22% higher than in 2013, with sales on Black Friday alone surging 135%.
“The mania around Black Friday has clearly driven profound sales results in November,” said Adgild Hop, head of retail consulting at Capgemini. “We will need to await the December and January results to determine whether this has been truly incremental or merely earlier – and potentially lower margin – sales.”
Hop added” “In light of the fulfilment challenges that the industry has suffered post-Black Friday, we will also be holding our breath as to whether retailers can indeed fulfil the increased home delivery and click-and-collect volumes for Christmas. Few things would be more damaging to loyalty than broken promises at this time of year.”
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