John Lewis posts record £200m sales week thanks to Black Friday

John Lewis

The growing importance of Black Friday for UK retailers has been underlined by the latest sales figures, with John Lewis reporting its best ever weekly revenues of nearly £200m, the Guardian reports..

The department store group said it achieved sales of £199.8m in the week to last Friday, up 6.5 per cent on the same week last year. It traded well in shops and online, with shops becoming busier at the weekend.

UK shoppers spent over £2bn on their Visa cards on Black Friday, 13 per cent more than last year. Half the spending happened online and contactless payments picked up, across all age groups, the card company said.

Kevin Jenkins, UK and Ireland managing director at Visa, said: “We continue to see an increase in the shift from cash to cards when people do their Christmas shopping. Consumers are now armed with a variety of new ways to pay, such as wearables and a range of digital wallet options on their mobile devices.”

Barclaycard, which processes almost half of all credit and debit card transactions in the UK, said payment transactions were 6 per cent higher than last year’s Black Friday. Total spending amounted to £2.9bn, although this also includes purchases not related to Black Friday.

Many UK retailers now discount heavily in the days running up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and over the weekend in between, extending the period in which bargain hunters can seek discount offers. Some retailers stretch their sales into a longer period, with Amazon and some supermarkets kicking off Black Friday deals about 10 days before.

However, this year did not bring the scenes of mayhem at shops seen in 2014, when police had to intervene in some places. Since the US-inspired shopping bonanza arrived in the UK six years ago, it has increasingly become an online event.

“The question is how far it’s pulled sales forward from this week and December,” said Nick Bubb, an independent retail analyst. “It’s a big week, bigger than Christmas. The full story isn’t yet told. That’s going to be the question for all retailers.”

Industry figures from consultancy Springboard showed that online purchases rose 6.7 per cent  this Black Friday compared with last year, well short of the expected double-digit surge of 25 per cent.

Footfall at shops rose unexpectedly, by 2 per cent. However, there was a dip in trips to retail parks and shopping centres between Friday and Sunday, according to Springboard. Pictures of empty Tesco superstores and shopping malls appear to confirm that trend.

In the US, Cyber Monday was the country’s biggest ever online shopping day, with $3.39bn spent online this year, up 10.2 per cent on 2015, according to data from Adobe Digital Insights. Cyber Monday narrowly beat Black Friday, with takings of $3.34bn. Televisions saw the biggest discounts, of 20 per cent plus.

John Lewis said customers used their mobile phones to shop between midnight and 9am on Black Friday, but switched to shopping on their desktop computers once they arrived at work. At the busiest time on Friday morning, five orders were made every second on the John Lewis website.

As elsewhere, electrical items were the biggest draw at John Lewis, with sales up 11 per cent year on year. Bestsellers included Sonos Play:1 wireless speakers and GHD hair straighteners, Samsung TVs and KitchenAid appliances.

Fashion sales were 4.6 per cent higher. Sales were particularly strong in beauty, womenswear, menswear and sports. Ted Baker and Michael Kors accessories were popular, along with Barbour clothing and Calvin Klein pyjamas and lingerie. But the home department offered fewer deals on branded items and sales edged up just 0.9 per cent.

The group’s Waitrose supermarket business made sales of £136.6m last week, up 1.3 per cent. Beer, wine and spirits were the biggest sellers, with sales up 4.5 per cent as people stocked up for the festive season. Turkey orders were almost a third higher than last year as Thanksgiving becomes more popular in the UK, and Waitrose also sold a third more pumpkin pie pastry cases.

At Argos, popular products included iPads, PS4, Xbox, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Beats headphones. Football clubs including Premier League champions Leicester City embraced Black Friday, with many offering 20 per cent off kit and other merchandise in their shops and online.