Has Black Friday killed off Boxing Day sales for ever? Christmas tradition could be fading out as earlier buying frenzies take over, experts say
It’s a Christmas tradition as old as decorating the tree or leaving out mince pies for Santa – but Boxing Day sales could be a thing of the past, experts say.
An increase in the number of sales days held earlier in the year, shops wanting to maintain profit margins and supply shortages is likely to mean slim pickings for post-Christmas bargain hunters this year.
Consultants PwC said the big sales day has been declining for some years, and its figures suggested that 2021 will be ‘particularly lacklustre’, thanks in part to the growth of the US import Black Friday.
Boxing Day sales in Selfridges in 2018, the year when an estimated 27 million shoppers joined the frenzy on December 26, spending a record £3.71billion
Ongoing supply chain chaos has also led to a shortage of items which often feature heavily in the discounts, such as furniture and electronics.
Big sellers such as the latest PlayStation and Xbox games machines have been in short supply ever since they were launched at the end of last year.
Shops already struggling to fill orders will not be able to cope with the extra demand of holding sales – and in addition many are having to deal with staff shortages.
In their heyday the Boxing Day sales lured millions to high streets and shopping centres – with queues forming outside some of the biggest department stores before dawn.
As recently as 2018 an estimated 27 million shoppers joined the frenzy on December 26, spending a record £3.71billion.
But in 2019 that fell to £3.25billion and, as shops across large swathes of the country were closed in 2020 amid Covid restrictions and lockdowns, the figures declined even further.
A handbag out for Boxing Day sales in 2016. In their heyday the Boxing Day sales lured millions to high streets and shopping centres
The discount season has already been muted this year with fewer retailers offering pre-Christmas promotions than in the past.
With around a tenth fewer retailers offering sales in early December compared with a year previously, PwC expects that trend to be reflected after Christmas.
Even those stores which are offering sales have been forced to spread what might have been a one-day bonanza over weeks because of concerns about Covid.
Harrods kicked off its ‘Boxing Day’ sales ten days early this year. The luxury department store’s winter sale will run into the new year to let customers spread out their shopping sprees.
It will include offers of up to 50 per cent off homeware and kitchen appliances, and discounts on clothing and beauty products.
Black Friday shoppers in London in 2019. Consultants PwC said the big sales day has been declining for some years, thanks in part to the growth of the US import Black Friday
The priciest item to go on sale will be a men’s Breitling rose gold watch, reduced from £18,220 to £14,576, a 20 per cent discount.
Boxing Day falls on a Sunday this year and this has led to some retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, deciding to keep their doors closed to give staff time off.
Big names which have promised to continue the sales tradition include Next, Currys and Boots.
PwC, which tracks the promotions of 200 online shops, said 72 per cent of sellers offered Black Friday discounts this year, compared with 90 per cent last year and 85 per cent the year before.
The promotions offered were also smaller, with only 35 per cent of retailers offering discounts above 50 per cent, compared with 43 per cent of retailers doing so last year.
Lisa Hooker, PwC’s consumer markets head, said: ‘Ongoing Covid uncertainty, challenges around Brexit and global border constraints suggest that current stock shortages will last long into next year.
‘Added to workforce shortages and a supply chain still recovering from the pandemic, we’re unlikely to see a return to frequent and heavy discounts any time soon.
‘Promotional activity is likely to follow the trends we’re used to seeing across the year but with fewer participants and fewer bargains.’