DotBiz colum: Online shoping keeps on growing

The warehouse at the Amazon fulfillment centre in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

The warehouse at the Amazon fulfillment centre in Hemel Hempstead. Picture: Nick Ansell/PA Wire

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Black Friday has come and gone, and what a difference a year makes. Last year we were witness to scenes reminiscent of riots as shoppers hungry for bargains stampeded into stores as soon as the doors opened. This year has been a far more subdued affair.

If you’re still in the dark as to where Black Friday came from, it originates from the United States – now there’s a surprise – where retailers want to kick start Christmas shopping the day after Thanksgiving.

Asda was the first retailer to being Black Friday to the UK in 2013, with many more shops jumping on the bandwagon the following year. The frenzy it created took many by surprise, with social media flooded with videos showing buyers fighting and clamouring to get their hands on cut price big ticket goods. This year has seen less concentration of deals being only available on Black Friday itself, with many retailers opting to spread offers over a week.

Ironically, Asda, who brought Black Friday to the UK, opted out of it altogether, putting it down to “shopper fatigue around flash sales”.

Hardly surprising following the scenes at some of their stores last year. Other stores who did partake were reporting a far more orderly affair for 2015.

Rather than goods flying off the shelves, this year shops have been finding that some of their bargains were not being snapped up. So, has the British public had their fill of Black Friday?

Going by an announcement from Amazon the day after Black Friday, it would appear not. The online retailer reported their UK site had experienced its busiest day ever. In just the one day it sold an eye-watering 7.4 million items. That’s 86 items every second! Last year it shifted a paltry 5.5 million items in the same period. Other retailers with ecommerce sites reported very high traffic, with Argos’s website experiencing delays and John Lewis’s online shop unavailable during Black Friday for a short period. So, far from falling out of love with Black Friday, we’ve simply moved our emphasis from shopping in store to shopping online. Experian-IMRG predicted that total online sales on Black Friday would hit £1.07bn, 32% up on 2014’s figure of £810m. That’s a big pie and it shows no signs of getting smaller, but how do you get a slice of it. The big retailers can throw huge budgets at their online presence, but what about the rest of us? Next time, we’ll take a look at some ecommerce strategies for 2016.

1Andrew McEwan of And We Do This in Morebattle (www.andwedothis.com) helps businesses in the Scottish Borders and beyond with website design, ecommerce, digital marketing and video production.