The press release issued by PWC on 16 December 2022.
- Only 76% retailers took part in Black Friday – a vast drop from 90% peak in 2020
- Blanket promotions reduced from a 36% high in 2020 to 21% this year
- Forecast 8% lower spend for consumers on festivities and gifting at Christmas means retailers need to think strategically for clearing seasonal stock
While retail has been marred by unsteady trading conditions over the last three years – the pandemic, stock shortages, supply chain issues, and the cost-of-living crisis – promotions around Black Friday and Christmas have allowed the sector to partly return to some normality. Prior to the pandemic, the traditional Boxing Day sale had been replaced by a ‘twin peaks’ promotional trading pattern, with more retailers discounting in both late November around Black Friday as well as post-Christmas, as retailers look to capitalise on changing consumer habits from newer promotions.
Our PwC Promotions tracker confirms that the ‘twin peaks’ pattern may return this year – but with a stronger focus on Boxing Day sales. The unique tool, developed by the firm, has been tracking the online discounts and sales on a daily basis since 2020. The tool aims to monitor the promotions of over 200 of the most loved brands in the UK to determine how their level of promotions might indicate the performance of retail both during Black Friday, the wider Christmas shopping period, and throughout the year.
Black Friday promotions looked like a mixed bag for shoppers in 2022 with 76% of tracked retailers taking part , an increase of 4% from 2021 when many retailers were impacted by stock shortages. However, this was significantly lower than the 90% that took part amidst lockdown uncertainty around Black Friday in 2020.
2022’s promotions proved to be less generous with most retailers only offering a quarter to a third off selected categories and ranges, such as winter clothing that had yet to be sold after the mild Autumn. Fewer retailers offered ‘blanket’ promotions across all stock (e.g. 20% off everything). This approach continued to fall, from a peak of 36% in 2020 to 26% in 2021 to 21% this year.
Kien Tan, PwC retail director comments on the promotional trends of Black Friday:
“In 2020, we saw significantly higher Black Friday discounting than in previous years, as retailers looked to clear the excess stock built up over covid lockdowns. 2021 saw yet another trend change with lower Black Friday promotions than previously, as retailers battled supply chain shortages and pent-up demand post-lockdown. This year, retailers have, on the whole, tried to avoid excess discounting in order to take advantage of the increased consumer interest in the Black Friday sales as predicted in our survey last month, when we forecast an additional £500 million would be spent during the event.”
As usual, the PwC Promotional tracker found that the proportion of retailers on sale fell in early December as they took advantage of the fact that the majority of consumers do most of their Christmas shopping this month. But, given that PwC’s Festive Predictions forecast that UK consumers will be spending around 8% or £33 per head less this year on festivities and gifting, combined with the impact on both high street footfall from transport strikes and online shopping deliveries from postal strikes, many retailers are likely to be left with excess stock at the end of the year.
As a result, retailers are expected to reward patient shoppers with larger than normal discounts as they clear seasonal stock in the Boxing Day sales ahead of what may prove to be a challenging 2023.”
Lisa Hooker, Consumer Markets leader comments on the Christmas promotion trends PwC has noted for 2022:
“There has been much speculation on the level of promotions in the run up to Christmas given the cost of living crisis and retail sales volumes declining this Autumn. However, many retailers have held their nerve and not gone back to the level of discounting seen at the height of the pandemic. During Black Friday, discounts were typically less generous with most retailers offering only a quarter or a third off, and only on specific lines that had sold less well across the year – for example, clearing winter coats, which remained unsold due to a mild autumn. However, will this continue as the current strikes impact sales and given PwC’s expectation that shoppers will rein in their spending on festivities and gifts?
We are already starting to see from mid-December, promotional levels creeping up versus this time last year which maybe suggests some overstocking. So will retailers participate in Boxing Day promotions with greater gusto than in previous years and with deeper reductions 0r even start such sales in the week before Christmas as they suddenly realise the threat of excess stock? For the few who leave the Christmas shopping to the week of Christmas, they may grab an unexpected bargain. Retailers will be keen to not start 2023 with too much stock due to the worry that inflation will leave a credit card hangover for some shoppers!”