How have retailers prepared for Black Friday 2015?

UK retailers were left reeling and with empty stock rooms late last November when shoppers spent an estimated £810m in one day. According to the UK’s industry association for online retail IMRG, who compiled the figures, the surprise amount spent on Black Friday in 2014 eclipsed the £650m spent by consumers on ‘Manic Monday,’ traditionally the biggest spending day of the year when pre-Christmas pay checks reach the nation’s bank accounts. The Black Friday spending frenzy on 28 November last year was said by online shopping tracker Postcode Anywhere to have resulted in over 400,000 orders being placed in a single day. 
Experts predict that Black Friday 2015 may be lining up to go on record as one the biggest shopping days ever with retailers ringing up sales of £1bn or more. Surely this is great news for retailers? Without doubt it is; however there is a certain level of trepidation as major stores recall last year when capacity was overstretched and customer service suffered badly. This year major retailers are determined to avoid a repeat and efforts have been stepped up across both retail and logistics sectors to properly staff-up for the sales event.
Traditionally retailers would up-staff for the fortnight before Christmas when demand was highest and supply chains were stretched. Now that retail events are occurring in late November that demands on retail operations and logistical chains are stretched throughout the five week period at the end of the year. This gives any hiring manager a major headache when looking ahead to the predicted high pressure sales period. So what different approaches are retailers taking in 2015?

Staffing up

This year larger companies have taken new steps to avoid the issues faced in previous years. For example John Lewis has hired an extra 3,000 members of staff to handle deliveries alone and have invested ‘tens of millions of pounds’ to expand their capacity for this busy period. Argos has hired over 8,000 extra customer service personnel, while electronics retailer GAME have hired an external distribution company to deal with volume allowing them to focus on staffing stores in line with demand. 

Extending deals

Black Friday has typically covered small domestic appliances but retailers are looking to widen their product offering as well as extending the savings through to Christmas. Rather than focusing on a single day, deals are being spread throughout the period leading up to Christmas to relieve pressure on customer service staff and supply of sought after products.

Moving online

Some retailers have moved many of their deals online and will be relying on a robust and efficient supply chain operation to get orders delivered in time for Christmas. Click & Collect is being encouraged as a way to ensure that customers receive their orders on time. This involves strong collaboration between front of house staff and logistics teams.

Opting out

ASDA have taken the decision to ‘step away’ from Black Friday and are spreading their promotions across the whole festive season, having invested £26m to slash prices. Other retailers will opt out of the single day sales event and hope to reply on traditional seasonal demand.
By adopting these new approaches, implementing staffing strategies and with contingency plans in place, retailers will be banking on Black Friday 2015 going as smoothly as possible. Shoppers meanwhile will be looking to cash in on massive savings and will no doubt test the retailers to the limit.
For a confidential conversation about opportunities in the Retail sector contact Oliver Nevel at Michael Page Retail
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