According to reports this week, Black Friday has been affecting sales across the board with a significant shift in seasonal trading patterns for general merchandise and no sign of improvement for the struggling grocery sector.
John Lewis reported a 5.1% rise in like-for-like sales during the six weeks up to January 2. Gross sales also rose by 6.9% – to £951.3m.
In contrast, Waitrose reported that their gross sales advanced 1.2% to £859.8m but were reduced by 1.4% on a like-for-like basis.
According to John Lewis, the festive trading period saw a significant shift in sales patterns – something that is also being reported by other retailers. They report that the segment was characterised by three distinct peaks in sales – during Black Friday, Christmas and Clearance with “higher sales and a different channel mix for each peak”.
The increase in sales was clearly seen in online purchases during the Black Friday weekend as they processed 18% more parcels than during the same period last year. However, there was lower footfall in stores during the run-up to Christmas with sales in store down 1.2% on last year.
Apparently shoppers were keener to hit the stores in person after the Christmas rush to have a rummage for bargains – and in-store sales rose again, by 16.2% during the first week of Clearance.
In contrast, Waitrose reported that their “peak trade came particularly late and was more concentrated than usual in the days before Christmas.” Online grocery sales rose 7.9% during this time.
Mark Price, managing director at Waitrose told Retail Week:
“Although it came very late, with a concentration of trade in the three days immediately before 25th December, we had a profitable Christmas with good margins and our costs well controlled.
“There was no festive easing of the tough market conditions we’ve seen throughout 2015 and it was thanks to the incredible efforts of our Partners that we achieved some record trading days and saw strong online growth.”
Sir Charlie Mayfield, Chairman of John Lewis Partnership suggested that this has been a strong Christmas trading period despite the ‘challenging’ grocery market:
“Our performance reflects to a large extent the significant investment we have made in our distribution and IT capability.
“Despite the fact trade was even more concentrated across a number of very busy shopping days, our operations performed especially well.”
Unsettling times for grocery sales – we’ re interested to see what 2016 holds for this continually shifting market and it’s good to see a well-organised online strategy working well for John Lewis particularly after they made adjustments to some services last year. They are clearly on top of their game.