Black Friday: Beyond the hype

25 January, 2016 by Admin

With Black Friday and Cyber Monday fast becoming some of the most hyped consumer events in the yearly retail calendar, what strategies do UK fashion retailers utilise to lure customers? How do their pricing strategies on Black Friday compare to the rest of the year and what does it mean for the customer? Online retailing has played a large part in the UK response to these events. By looking at data from leading UK high-street fashion retailer online stores, we offer a fresh perspective on the different discounting strategies during this period of high consumer demand.
Black Friday: Beyond the hype

Figure 1: Breadth and Depth of Black Friday Discounts by Retailer


  • The discounting position of UK fashion retailers can be categorised into three main bands:

- Moderate discounts across almost the entire product range
- Moderate to high discounts across circa half of the range
- High discounts across a narrow product range

  • Our findings suggest that the retailers are still experimenting with different discounting strategies, with some, such as Asda George, actively choosing not to offer any special Black Friday deals (source:
  • Interestingly, a comparison of Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals reveals that there is no significant difference between the two, with Black Friday discounts being only marginally deeper

So how do retailers really compare?

Our analysis shows that UK fashion retailers have adopted different positions throughout the discount spectrum, to the benefit of the end consumer.

Interestingly, large retailers such as House of Fraser and Debenhams, as well as smaller retailers such as Phase Eight and Hobbs have offered moderate discounts (30%-35%) across more than two-thirds of their product range, with the latter group even going up to 90% of their online range. Conversely, Matalan, Tesco F&F and John Lewis find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum, with ambitious discount levels in excess of 40%, albeit across a considerably smaller product range comprising less than a fifth of their total offering.

Other retailers such as Banana Republic, H&M and GAP offered the same level of discounts (over 40%), but discounted 35% of all products. However, the fact that these retailers showcased similar discount levels a week before Black Friday suggests, to the dismay of some brand advocates that the approach may not be to offer deeper discounts on Black Friday but rather indicative of early discounting due to a tough trading season.

Overall, we conclude that Black Friday is not enjoying the full confidence of UK fashion retailers this year: whilst some are still experimenting, for many the event remains more marketing hype than actually representing a marked shift in the level of discounts being offered for consumers.

And is the Black Friday versus Cyber Monday debate justified in the UK?

For those UK deal-hunters wanting closure on the question of whether to buy on Black Friday or wait until Cyber Monday, we see that there is only a marginal difference between the two, however Black Friday deals are slightly deeper. In general, consumers may not gain any significant advantage by waiting until Cyber Monday, especially with the added risk that stocks may run out.

There is, of course an exception to the trend, and this year it comes from Banana Republic. Between Black Friday and Cyber Monday the US-headquartered retailer increased the depth of discounts offered, from 43% to 52%, while at the same time reducing the proportion of products on offer, from 42% to 25%.

Make way for women’s clothing and footwear

While the overall discount levels in the market being fairly similar a week before Black Friday to those offered on the day, the volume of both clothing and footwear products made available at a discount saw noticeable increases.

Our findings show that in the 7 day run-up to Black Friday, the volume of discounted clothing products more than doubled, equating to more than 50% of clothing products in the market being discounted on Black Friday. The only other category with noteworthy discounts was footwear, with price reductions for almost 60% of products, a significant increase in volume from a week before Black Friday.

End-of-season sales for winter attire tend to start well before Christmas, so it may be that retailers are using Black Friday as an opportune moment to launch their clothing and footwear sale events.

A closer look at the clothing segment reveals womenswear had better deals when compared to menswear and children wear. Black Friday was especially rewarding for female shoppers since circa 60% of the extensive product range was available on discount, a significant increase compared to a week before. At the other end of the spectrum was children wear, with the smallest proportion of clothing products on discount and the lowest discount offered, compared to the other two categories, suggesting that this was not a big focus area for retailers on Black Friday.


From their very different strategies, it seems that UK fashion retailers are still grappling with how best to use Black Friday. In particular, the tough trading conditions faced by many this season may have further complicated the picture, but we expect to see further experimentation next year before the event matures in the UK calendar.


The observations are based on the offers available on the websites of leading fashion retailers in UK during Black Friday and Cyber Monday.