UK e-sales struggle as early Black Friday push falls flat

E-tailers pulled forward their Black Friday-branded campaigns this year, but it didn’t seem to have a positive impact for many, according to the IMRG Online Retail Index, which has been tracking UK online sales for over two decades.

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IMRG said that 48 out of 295 retailers it tracks went live with Black Friday promotions three weeks out from the big week, the number rising to 114 within a fortnight. 

But week one of November saw all-but-flat revenue growth (at +0.5%) year on year. And week two was actually down 6.2%, leaving a “heavy reliance” on Black Friday week itself for the month to be positive.

That said, in week one, the gifts category saw its first positive result in 20 weeks (+0.6%) but it went into reverse the following week with a massive drop of more than 18% year on year.

Almost half of 80 retailers IMRG polled on 16 November said their results that week so far were “below expectation”. 

As for this week, from Monday 20 November to Monday 27 November, IMRG is forecasting declines across the total online market, as well as for key product categories such as clothing and gifts. 

It expects the total market to be down 2% with clothing down an even worse 3% and gifts dropping by 11%. But at least health & beauty should be in positive territory with a 1% expected increase.

Andy Mulcahy, Strategy and Insight Director at IMRG, said: “The signs so far in November have not been very positive, and it means there is a lot of ground to be made up if it is to be a successful trading month for retailers. That’s not to say it couldn’t happen; it may be that shoppers are going to concentrate their spend more fully on this week in 2023, and there will likely be some big deals available if demand is slow and they find themselves a bit overstocked. Many will be hoping that the upturn in demand arrives very soon.”

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