Kayla Marci

December 2, 2020

Black Friday 2020 trends unearthed by retail data

So, Black Friday just happened. We crunched the numbers to bring you the most notable insights in our post mortem report.

From early promotions and record sales in the US to the ongoing collapse of the British High Street. 2020’s reputation as a chaotic mixed bag of events only grew stronger as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales wrapped up.

While some businesses breathe a sigh of relief, savvy retailers are already thinking ahead to 2021’s event. They know the unpredictable landscape calls for strategies to be backed up by retail analytics instead of guesswork. To help these trailblazers, EDITED has crunched the numbers to unpack the most notable insights in our Black Friday and Cyber Monday post mortem report.

Find out how the EDITED Market Intelligence platform can help plan your product, pricing and promotional strategies for peak discount periods next year and beyond.

Key stats and takeaways

  • This year’s digital-first Black Friday broke all records, acting as a springboard for Cyber Monday 2020 to become the biggest shopping day in US history. Staying at home, the American consumer spent $9 billion online on Black Friday and $10.8 billion on Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Analytics
  • Things were less rosy in the UK, with legacy High Street retailers falling into administration and overall Black Friday payments dropping 16.7% YoY. With restrictions lifting on December 2nd, an impromptu “Black Wednesday” sale is slated to boost consumer spending. 
  • These markets ran opposing strategies, with UK retailers discounting a greater proportion of products than in previous years while the US reductions were deeper. 51% of products were discounted in the US where the average advertised discount sat at 48%. In the UK, 54% of the assortment was marked down with reductions at 37%. On average, both regions advertised heavier discounts than when the pandemic first broke out in March.

So, Black Friday just happened. What are the key trends retailers need to know? Continue reading as we shed some light on a shopping event unlike no other.

Discounts started earlier…and are still going

In the US, more sales communications were sent in October compared to 2019 as retailers used the delayed Prime Day sales to kick off Black Friday reductions. Discounting periods will blur even further as UK retailers participate in “Black Wednesday” promotions to offset sluggish sales caused by the second wave lockdowns. Additionally, large retailers in France have delayed their Black Friday offers until December 4th in a move supported by the government to protect the country’s small businesses from being steamrolled by Amazon and other major player’s blow-out sales.

Some major players sat out

The pandemic has encouraged retailers to rethink and reset their traditional trade processes, helping break fashion’s addiction to discounting. 

Will Black Friday exist in 5 years? There’s still a long way to go. Yet, while 2020 was laden with reductions, more retailers took a firm stance against the hyper-consumerism associated with the event, running polarizing strategies to reposition the sale in a positive, low-impact light. Small businesses dominated this movement, yet more high-profile retailers used this event to give back to social causes or promote sustainability efforts.

Allbirds continued its crusade, raising prices by $1 on Black Friday, donating the extra dollar plus one more matched by the retailer to Fridays for Future. Anya Hindmarch, Baukjen and Hush were among those opting out of discounts instead, donating all or a portion of sales to charitable organizations. The Labour Behind the Label initiative launched a Black Friday campaign urging fast fashion retailers to compensate their supply chain workers. Charity partnerships continued to fuel the kindness economy as a host of retailers from H&M to Reformation participated in Giving Tuesday. 

Other retailers switched up their strategies

With an average reduction of 48%, US retailers ran deeper reductions than previous years to offset high inventory levels and slow sales caused by the pandemic. This strategy was adopted by Ann Taylor, Bonobos and J.Crew, who were all advertising more aggressive discounts than the past two years. H&M and Macy’s pulled back on discounting compared to recent years, with the average reduction and proportion at the same rate or lower.

In the UK, retailers concentrated on broad rather than deep discounts, with many advertising their entire offer as reduced to drum up interest. Arcadia brands such as Topshop, Topman and Dorothy Perkins adopted this strategy, yet discounted deeper than previous years ahead of the retail empire falling into administration.

Debenhams, which also entered administration this week, discounted deeper than in the past two years. The department store is set to raise this further, offering 70% off all its stock and opening its stores to celebrate the end of lockdown with a “Wild Wednesday” sale.

H&M UK reduced a greater proportion of products this Black Friday compared to the past two years and its US site, yet pulled back on the depth of discounts. Interestingly, sister brand Monki held the same discount levels as last year yet did not mention the sale, when last year it openly opposed the event.

Comfort categories were spared from steep sales

Retailers protected the value of their pandemic hero categories to increase their longevity and hold interest post-sales. In the US, hoodies and sweatshirts each equaled less than 5% of tops warranting a steep reduction (60% off or higher), while in the UK these styles were less than 3%. 

A similar story was noted for the bottoms category. In the US, sweatpants and leggings were less than 10% of items warranting a high markdown and in the UK these were lower than 5%. 

Comfort drove footwear sell outs over this period without requiring a drastic price cut. In the US, shoes were the second top selling category on Black Friday driven by sneakers with only 5% of styles marked down at 60% or above. In the UK, sandals and formal shoes were the footwear categories reduced the deepest. Only 1% of heavy reductions were slippers, which have solidified themselves as footwear’s winning category of 2020.

While more formal products were slashed

In contrast, shirts made up 12% of tops advertised with a discount of 60% or higher in the US. For bottoms, 33% of this category warranting a deeper reduction were trousers and 19% were jeans. Handbags and jewelry drove competitive accessories markdowns and not even Zoom-friendly pieces such as earrings or necklaces were exempt from deep discounts.

WFH style continued to prevail in the UK, signaling retailers to cull products that did not fit this aesthetic. Blazers made up 22% of discounts above 60% off in its respective category, shirts 20% and blouses 12%. The majority of bottoms discounted deeply in the UK were jeans, trousers and shorts. With this region experiencing two lockdowns, retailers used this opportunity to clear dresses at a higher percentage. Despite the deep reductions, the majority of dress SKUs selling out over the four days were shy of last year’s numbers by 30%, suggesting the alternative to hibernate stock instead of pushing at a discount and diminishing value when consumers aren’t going anywhere.

Deeper discounts don’t always equal higher sell outs

Similarly, in the US, aggressive markdowns didn’t always land with consumers. In anticipation of a second lockdown, Black Friday traffic at US stores fell 52%, adding pressure for retailers to entice consumers online with competitive offers. Retailers favored the 60-70% bracket for most advertised discounts. However, products reduced between 50-60% off, the third most common Black Friday discount, saw the highest number of sell outs.

Additionally, for the most successful Cyber Monday on record, which EDITED noted an 11% increase in majority SKU sell outs YoY, discounting depth matched Black Friday. Yet Monday saw a slightly higher percentage of products discounted. Keep this in mind for next year and introduce fresh styles to the mix as the sale progresses instead of further slashing prices on already reduced stock.

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