Have supply chain issues prompted customers to shop even earlier in this year’s Golden Quarter?

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Black Friday is always the most eagerly anticipated trading period in the calendar year. But with supply chain issues causing well documented stock disruption and the continued threat of delivery delays, we wanted to analyse whether this has prompted customers to shop even earlier in this year’s Golden Quarter.

At Awin we track online performance for over 1,000 retail brands, including multichannel and online-only retailers. If we look at performance across the retail landscape from 17th October to 14th November, we can get an indication of when peak season demand started to intensify within the UK market. Looking at the daily uplift in sales performance, we conclude that at least four days of consecutive day-on-day growth suggests that customers have increased their online shopping intensity.

In 2019, it wasn’t until 21th November, the week of Black Friday, that we saw customers really dial up their online shopping activity. Conversely, we saw customers increase their shopping behaviour much earlier last year, on 4th November, in part perhaps aided by the  UK having just entered into a circuit breaker lockdown.

But what about this year? Have supplier issues and delivery delays resulted in customers shopping earlier? The data suggests that it has, with shopping behaviours escalating from 24th October, some 11 days earlier than last year and almost a month earlier than 2019. Perhaps what’s more interesting is that the majority of retailers hadn’t even launched their Black Friday promotions by this point, suggesting that customers were happy to forgo potential savings in favour of having their purchase delivered on time.  

How does this impact performance in the lead up to Black Friday?

With customers shopping online earlier than ever before, performance in the four week period commencing 24th October has increased +7% year-on-year. It’s important to note though, that the majority of that growth comes in the period prior to the lockdown on 4th November. If we take the period of lockdown in isolation, performance is actually trending +1%  above the same period last year. But, of course, last year was hugely anomalous. Comparisons with a lockdown period are not likely to yield valuable insight. Instead, it’s worth comparing with the same period in 2019 where we see an  immense +64% like-for-like increase.

Despite current performance trending marginally above 2020, and customers shopping earlier than ever before, we should still expect Black Friday to deliver a seismic uplift in online retail performance.

A study by IMRG reported that 63% of retailers indicated their Black Friday campaigns would be live before the end of the third week in November, suggesting the majority of them haven’t even launched their Cyber Weekend promotions yet. However, unlike previous years I anticipate the spike we typically associate with Cyber Weekend will be flattened, with performance extending into the week preceding Black Friday. Performance spread more evenly than normal across Cyber Week will be the consequence of retailers launching offers ahead of Black Friday, as well as a result of a behavioural shift from customers as they look to circumvent supplier issues and delivery shortages.

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