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December 4, 2015updated 28 Mar 2017 4:21pm

Black Friday goes online

By John Oates

Last week’s Black Friday was a bit of a flop in the UK. Several big name stores ended up with more photographers and reporters mulling around than actual real shoppers.

The day only ever really made sense in the US where people celebrate Thanksgiving so are free to go on a bit of shopping rampage the next day.

In the UK it’s just another Friday – although it remains one of the biggest shopping days of the year.

Several retailers blamed the internet for the lack of bodies in their stores. Although there’s also been a general calming down after nasty scenes last year which led Asda and other retailers withdrawing from the competition.

But all the big online names have got in on the act – pushing early Christmas discounts and getting the ball rolling for the big seasonal push.

Online retailers are just as dependent on Christmas as traditional shops – British shoppers spend twice as much online in November and December as they do between January and September.

Increased and regular spending on food is levelling this out slightly but Christmas remains the ‘make or break’ season.

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British people are expected to spend over £17bn via internet shopping in the run up to Christmas

Some argue that online shopping is inherently more prone to these kind of spikes than bricks and mortars stores.

Certainly a properly set-up website shouldn’t have the physical restrictions on visitors that a shop does.

Changes to enterprise technology do make these peaks and troughs easier to deal with. You no longer need to buy servers to deal with your busiest time but can buy in capacity when it is needed.

Accelerating supply chains and improved business intelligence systems should make pricing more of a science and less of an art. You can also have time to react to sales in the early weeks.

Of course technology is also playing an ever bigger role on the shop floor. Business intelligence systems no longer just analyse past performance but offer real-time suggestions on pricing and even product placement.

Automated inventory systems are reducing stock levels and speeding up refresh rates. Clever retailers collect customer reactions from social media as well as more traditional channels.

Whether you shop online or on the High Street ever faster technology will be watching, and likely influencing, your purchases this Christmas.


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