Black Friday 2014 will haunt UK retailers and their logistics partners alike for many years to come. Consumers brawling in the aisles for discounted goods, trailer loads of parcels for home delivery left standing because capacity had been under-estimated, and worst of all, lots and lots of very unhappy customers.
Not surprisingly, a lot of work went into ensuring that 2015 would not see a repeat of these events. Not only was there an increase in capacity, there was also general agreement to drop next day delivery promises for the peak, and to spread the discounts over a longer period.
And all the work seems to have paid off. John Lewis performed particularly strongly with online growth, helping it to increase sales by 6.9 per cent to £951.3m for the six weeks to 2nd January. Group chairman Sir Charlie Mayfield said: “Our performance reflects to a large extent the significant investment we have made in our distribution and IT capability.”
John Lewis’s online sales grew by 21.4 per cent compared to 2014, and mobile continued to be its fastest-growing channel. Sales through Click & Collect were up 16 per cent. For John Lewis, the group identified a significant shift in patterns of trade with three distinct sales peaks – Black Friday, Christmas and Clearance. Each peak had higher sales and a different channel mix.
In a trading statement, it said: “The combination of our shops, web site and fulfilment centres worked together effectively. For example, on the Black Friday weekend our distribution teams processed 18 per cent more parcels than last year, which equated to five units per second during the peak hour. However, there is evidence that some sales moved online, with shop sales for the six week period down 1.2 per cent, reflecting lower footfall pre-Christmas.
Argos took a risk in introducing its FastTrack delivery service in October giving just a few weeks to prepare for the peak. For the 18 weeks to 2nd January total sales at Argos increased 0.9 per cent, John Walden, chief executive of Home Retail Group, said.
“They were affected by volatile trading patterns resulting from particularly strong sales during Black Friday week, a shift in consumer demand from both the weeks before and after Black Friday, growth in digital transactions, reduced store footfall particularly on the high streets, and the continuing effects of price deflation. Argos like-for-like sales decreased 2.2 per cent in the period, while new digital concession locations added in the past year contributed 3.1 per cent to growth.”
Nevertheless, said Walden: “FastTrack, together with our now-proven store concession model and improvements in digital channels, drove increases in digital sales, digital participation and home delivery.”
The unseasonally warm weather caused problems for fashion retailer Next which found itself with the wrong product mix. It said poor stock availability played a part in disappointing pre-Christmas sales for Next Directory. Full price sales growth for the 60 days to 24 December for Next Directory was two per cent. Next Retail was down 0.5 per cent for the period. For the year to 2nd January, sales growth at Next Directory was 6.1 per cent. At Next Retail it was 2.1 per cent.
At Primark, sales were seven per cent ahead of last year at constant currency for the 16 weeks to 2nd January.
The big supermarket groups did better than expected. Tesco Group’s like-for-like sales were up 2.1 per cent for the Christmas period. UK like-for-like sales growth was 1.3 per cent for the period, which covers the six weeks to 9th January. However, UK and Ireland like for like sales for the previous 13 weeks were down.
At Sainsbury’s, online grocery sales rose ten per cent for the 15 weeks to 9th January. Total Retail sales for the third quarter were up by 0.8 per cent, excluding fuel, and down 0.7 per cent including fuel. Like-for-like retail sales were down 0.4 per cent, excluding fuel.
Morrisons’ Christmas trading statement revealed it experienced online sales growth of nearly 100 per cent year-on-year. Like-for-like sales excluding fuel in the nine weeks to 3rd January were up 0.2 per cent. Total sales excluding fuel were down 1.2 per cent.
Among the carriers, both Yodel and Hermes had reason to be satisfied. Hermes said it successfully processed 30.3 million parcels – a 24 per cent increase on 2014. Yodel handled upwards of 22 million parcels in the five weeks running up to Christmas day, and eDigitalResearch said 83 per cent of online shoppers reported they had experienced a positive delivery in feedback on the company’s customer satisfaction levels.