Analysis

Regional variations and shopper attitudes muddy the peak period waters

Despite predictions of £1bn worth of sales being made this coming Black Friday – which is now precisely four weeks away – research from IMRG and eDigitalResearch has found UK shoppers evenly split as to whether or not they are actually looking forward to the event.

According to the survey of 2,030 online shoppers, 31% either ‘like’ or ‘love’ major discount events such as Black Friday, but at the same time 30% ‘don’t like’ or ‘hate’ them. The other 39% of respondents remain unsure at present. Could that mean last year’s shopping frenzy and the subsequent strain on delivery won’t be repeated after all?

Eric Fergusson, Head of Retail Services, eCommera thinks anyone expecting nightmare scenarios might find themselves disappointed this year. “I predict that there will be a lot more site visitors, yet weaker conversion, driving flat sales or modest growth on last year. My hunch is that the weight of deals won’t be there as much as they were last year.”

He puts that down to retailer preparedness though. “I think it will be much more planned last year and retailers are much more prepared. There will be less emergency discounting on existing line, which in some instances could introduce a sale sooner. There will be more purposeful buying of dedicated stock; Very.co.uk already has a landing page set up and ready.

“Electricals will remain the key category, although furniture and homewares will see more of a peak this year. Mainstream fashion will be much more interesting; it is intrinsically harder to buy a consignment of dedicated stock. I would expect depth and breadth of discounting to be determined much closer to the Black Friday, pending each retailer’s given stock position. On the flip side, we could see more fashion retailers not entering the fray and choosing to ride the storm.”

Fighting in supermakets aside, there are other factors that might provoke unexpected regional Black Friday peaks in the UK. At least that’s what Jamie Turner, co-founder and CTO of PCA Predict, thinks. Formerly known as Postcode Anywhere, PCA Predict is a data company working with address and location information. Turner thinks the peak won’t be experienced uniformly across the UK, citing improved broadband services away from the major conurbations as one reason.

If true, the regional variations are likely to apply uneven pressure to some parts of the delivery network, compared with others. Major cities may find they are insulated from the excesses of the peak delivery strain, thanks to the presence of established alternative delivery destinations such as CollectPlus and, where London is concerned, the relative high-concentration of Doddle stores.

Regional risk assessments, in terms of delivery network resilience, warehouse capacity, and so on, might help to overcome some of those regional bottlenecks. But to do so effectively would require an analysis of which parts of the UK might experience higher internet (and ecommerce) penetration, fuelled by better broadband speeds.

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