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Is Black Friday More Important than Christmas for Retailers?

Is Black Friday More Important than Christmas for Retailers?


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With Black Friday approaching, we surveyed retailers in the US and UK to see whether it is becoming as significant a retail event as Christmas. 
Many retailers now view Black Friday weekend as more important than Christmas, in part due to its position in the retail calendar.
Given that Black Friday is very much a US tradition based around Thanksgiving, the surprising stat here is that UK retailers were more likely to see it as more important to them than Christmas.

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50% of US and 29% of UK respondents said Christmas was more important to them from a retail perspective.

Is Black Friday More Important?

42% of UK retailers viewed Black Friday as more important, compared with 30% from the US.
Of those retailers seeing Black Friday as more significant, there were some strong reasons.
For one, it arrives at a time when it’s payday for many shoppers, maybe even the last payday before Christmas Day. It’s a four day period when customers have to make a decision to buy as the discounts may not be there on the Tuesday.
While the Christmas shopping period lasts through December, retail traffic is more concentrated around Black Friday and Cyber Monday, making it a bigger single event.
Indeed, Swatch told us that the revenue for the Black Friday weekend exceeds the 10 days that follow.
That concentration of shoppers looking for deals makes it so significant, as David Tapp, Digital Marketing Manager at Pro:Direct Sport explains:

“Black Friday is the biggest day of the year with regards to traffic and revenue. Though Christmas is much more of a slower burn for us, as a single day it wins hands down.”

It depends very much on the sites and the types of products sold though, and different customer behaviour.
For some sites, Black Friday suits the products they sell, as the timing works for their customers.
For Megan Elliot, Digital Marketing Coordinator at Coast, Black Friday is nicely timed for Christmas parties:

“Our customers will be buying their occasion dresses before Christmas and Black Friday is the perfect excuse as they will receive exclusive discounts off! Over Christmas we will only be running our end of season sale which is nearer the end of December – too late for the customer to buy their Christmas Party Dress”

Tesco Mobile’s Senior Optimisation and Analytics Manager Simon Lancaster echoes this view:

“A mobile phone is a considered purchase and is usually bought well ahead of Christmas. Therefore we see a higher volume coming through Black Friday than in the run up to Christmas.”

Why Retailers See Christmas as More Important

50% of US and 29% of UK respondents said Christmas was more important to them from a retail perspective.
Of those retailers that see Christmas as more important, many point to the fact that it’s more about gifts, and therefore more people are driven to buy online at this time.
Many still see Christmas, with its longer run-up period, as the event that frames their retail year. Some fashion clients, for example, see greater volumes of sales as people buy gifts nearer to Christmas.
Nike’s Gabriela Bergamasco sees both periods as equally important, but driven by different customer behavior:

“Black Friday is a moment that consumers buy products for themselves and Christmas is a time to buy gifts for others. Both dates are complementary.”

Is It All Just One Big Shopping Season?

The complicating factor here is that people are just as likely to be buying gifts for others during Black Friday as they are for themselves.
Also, since Black Friday comes so near the beginning of December, it’s hard to separate it from the Christmas season in general.
If you’re organised and need to buy gifts for Christmas, is makes sense to take advantage of Black Friday / Cyber Monday deals. Essentially, it moves sales that may have been made closer to Christmas to late November.
The Christmas shopping season is longer, and while there are sales peaks, none reaches the height of Black Friday or Cyber Monday overall.
Last year, for example, sales peaked around the 14th December, but Black Friday volumes were three times higher (Cyber Monday’s around twice as high).
The last big peak was around the 19th, just about time to get items delivered, while there was still some activity up to Christmas, before smaller peaks reflecting post-Christmas sales events.

In Summary

Whether Christmas is more important really depends on the individual retailer, and it’s tricky to compare a longer shopping season with a four day blast of activity.
The peaks of marketing and promotional activity will vary according to a retailer’s strategy, but most will still find Black Friday hard to ignore.
This is why the vast majority of retailers will be participating in Black Friday promotions this year.
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Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is Editor in Chief at SaleCycle. He's been covering ecommerce and digital marketing for more than a decade, having previously written reports and articles for Econsultancy. ClickZ, Search Engine Watch and more.