Traditionally the day following Thanksgiving, Black Friday has been celebrated by retailers and shoppers alike for heavily discounted products and widespread sales. In previous years, there have been chaotic scenes in high street chains as customers battle it out for the best deals.
There was little of that last weekend, due mostly to the fact that shoppers are moving online. The modern invention of ‘Cyber Monday’, the expansion of Black Friday into a four-day shopping bonanza and the exponential rise in online purchases all contributed to a spike in internet sales and a drop in footfall on the busiest retailing weekend of the year.
Nevertheless, across the four days – including Black Friday and Cyber Monday – it is thought that Britons spent more than £3 billion, or an average of £203 each.
While all the statistics have yet to be collated, there are signs that Cyber Monday is rapidly catching up to Black Friday in popularity. This is particularly the case in Britain where Cyber Monday is the last significant retail day before Christmas and coincides with the final payday before the festive season.
According to Nationwide, the UK biggest building society, more than £90 million was spent by its customers between midnight and 5.30pm on Cyber Monday. This equates to around £87,000 a minute and is a 23 per cent increase compared to a normal Monday. Interestingly, whereas Nationwide account holders made fewer transactions on Cyber Monday than on Black Friday, they spent virtually the same amount. In total, Cyber Monday transactions were up 7 per cent year-on-year.
Meanwhile, Captify, a company which analyses 15 billion online searches a month, says that Black Friday continues to outshine Cyber Monday – for the moment at least. Looking at historical data, Captify calculates that a record £968 million was spent by UK shoppers on Cyber Monday last year, up from £720 million in 2014.
And what of the US? Looking at Black Friday for a moment, Adobe’s Black Friday report, which analyses more than 20 billion retail website visits, reports that online spending surpassed $3 billion on Black Friday alone – a record figure. When those statistics are combined with online Thanksgiving Day sales, that’s a 17.7 per cent rise year-on-year. In addition, Adobe says that Black Friday 2016 cemented its place in history as the first retail day to generate more than $1 billion in mobile revenue, a hike of 33 per cent compared to the previous year. Adobe added that sales on Cyber Monday soared by 12.1 per cent compared to 2015, up to $3.45 billion.
Of course, it’s difficult to compare like with like as Cyber Monday is strictly 24-hours whereas Black Friday can morph into days, even weeks, once the pre-Christmas sales get underway. Nevertheless, retailers are enjoying online surges, thanks in part to the wider range of items available over the web.
This year the usual suspects were big sellers: electronics, tech gifts, clothes and appliances. In the US, Walmart released a list of its biggest sellers on Cyber Monday, including the Apple iPad mini, the Samsung 60 inch Smart LED TV, Playstation 4 and the gift beloved of small children everywhere, the Shopkins Shoppies Gemma Stone.
In the UK, some of the best deals were on televisions (at Currys PC World an LG 60 inch smart TV was selling at £749, a reduction of £250), smartphones, laptops, tablets and games consoles.
Online demand was such that some websites crashed under the pressure, despite months of planning by retailers. According to Catchpoint Systems, which monitored the web performance of 20 of the UK’s leading e-commerce sites over Black Friday and Cyber Monday, the fastest loading pages were those of Tesco and Game, although Sainsbury’s, Amazon UK and Asos also did well. Slower homepages included those from Debenhams, Maplin and Currys PC World. Meanwhile, on the high street, John Lewis reported its best ever weekly revenues of nearly £200 million.
Amid this spending frenzy, however, were warnings over cyber security. Analysts estimate that more than £18 million was stolen from UK bank accounts over Black Friday and Cyber Monday as shoppers rushed to take advantage of discount prices. According to comparethemarket.com, shoppers are targets for hackers, particularly at times of increased online activity. Earlier research by the online comparison site found that one in ten people have been a victim of a cyber attack on their credit or debit card in the past year.