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Will high street stores miss out on a Black Friday boom?

The UK high street looks set to miss out on any boost in Black Friday sales, as customers pledge to stay away.

Research from Genesys has found that 74 per cent of shoppers plan to avoid physical stores on the international sales promotion day. Nearly a third of them (30 per cent) say that crowds will put them off going to stores, while more than half (53 per cent) say they never go out to hunt for bargains. A fifth of respondents say they used to visit physical stores on Black Friday, but no longer do so.

Many of the disaffected shoppers are turning to online retailers, but 85 per cent of these say they base their purchasing decisions on how well retailers deal with customer service issues, not solely on price.

“During this heightened shopping season, consumers not only look for the best possible deals, but increasingly base their purchasing decisions on how well businesses respond to issues, such as making returns and requesting technical support,” says Genesys vice president for UK and Ireland, Mark Armstrong. “Therefore, it is important that regardless of the sales channel, whether in-store or online, brands provide positive experiences and have the means to effectively communicate with customers to solve queries or complaints.”

There is little generational divide in customer behaviour according to Genesys, which finds behaviour by Millennials and Baby Boomers to be aligned. In each group, 89 per cent of shoppers plan to avoid stores this Black Friday. In Generation x (those aged 35-54), 68 per cent will avoid stores.

Many UK shoppers are expected to cram more of their Christmas into the discounting period of Black Friday, according to predictions from GlobalData. But the boost to overall sales – including online – is still expected to be smaller than last year. The decline in spending may cut retailer profitability.

GlobalData retail analyst Zoe Mills says, “Black Friday promotional sales continue to outperform the overall quarter as shoppers both delay spend that would have otherwise occurred before the event, while other shoppers bring forward spend, for example to capitalise on the low prices when purchasing Christmas gifts.

“However, its influence is waning as growth is forecast to be 2.2per cent versus 3.5 per cent in 2018. We are also seeing an increasing number of retailers discount ahead of the promotional event, often depicting these sales as a pre-Black Friday promotion.”

As in previous years, fashion and beauty products are expected to see the biggest boost in sales from Black Friday, with 2.7 per cent growth. With retailers such as Boots promoting heavy discounts, health and beauty ranges are expected to account for much of the growth, with man fashion and footwear stores already promoting ahead of the event.

Sales of electrical products are expected to grow by around 1.7 per cent, compared to 3.3 per cent during the Black Friday event last year, as the mature nature of the sector limits its growth potential.

“While unlikely to have a substantial impact on this area’s performance over the Black Friday period, the prominence of sustainability concerns in 2019 will see some consumers and retailers alike shun the event. Deciem will be shutting its stores on Friday 29 November and French brand Fagou is supporting a Make Friday Green Again collective to limit what it says is a discount period that encourages consumers to purchase items they do not need,” says Mills.

Shoppers might also be seeking to reduce their environmental impact by cutting back on impulse purchases, according to Rory Westbrook, founder and CEO of vintage clothing retailer True Vintage.

"Black Friday can provide some fantastic deals for consumers and it can be a great opportunity to save money but it can also encourage impulse buying of items which realistically, we could do without. Our advice would be if you do plan on buying this Black Friday, spend the same amount of time checking through what you already have and see if there are items that could benefit someone else either by donating them to charity or selling them on yourselves,” says Westbrook.

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