With the growing popularity of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, here at A1 Retail we will be updating this news post throughout the day and weekend with different industry professionals’ comments on this retail trend!

Jes Breslaw, director of marketing and strategy at Delphix, on the importance of innovation on the high-street this Christmas:

“Christmas must be a wonderful time to be an Amazon shareholder. Signs of the company’s undisputed festive reign are everywhere. As high-street retailers look to compete in the Black Friday, Super Sunday and Manic Monday retail frenzy, aggressive discounting and attempts to match the retail giant will simply squeeze small profit margins even further.

“To be successful, brands recognise that they can’t compete with the darling of retail on price-point alone. Instead, it is those that have the supporting infrastructure and processes in place that will be able to innovate with business applications and leverage business intelligence to increase market share.

“Over the next four days, it will be interesting to see which retailers are best to equipped to maintain customer loyalty and capitalise on consumers fondness for the convenience of online shopping. A single feature can win a customer, whether its recommending products, saving your measurements, or reminding what you bought Grandma last year. At the same time, a bug, error or poor experience can lose your most loyal customer in an instant. In this ultra-competitive world, retailers need to continuously deliver innovation whilst ensuring quality in order to maximise the potential that Christmas retailing holds.”

Craig Sears-Black, UK MD of Manhattan Associates:

“A new retail trend is showing that some of Britain’s largest shopping centres are introducing mega discounts to coincide with the usual online Black Friday shopping boom in an attempt to keep their bricks-and-mortar stores thriving. Many are looking to capitalise on the festive spending boom by incentivising shoppers to buy in-store this festive season, as well as online. With Black Friday marking the beginning of the Christmas shopping countdown, Retailers need complete real-time visibility of all stock be able to maximise sales and also maximise ability to fulfil commitments to customers. As customers demand more, retailers must deliver a seamless shopping experience regardless of shopping channel and must have the flexibility to deliver goods when, where and how shoppers want them. Recent research by Manhattan Associates found that a quarter of people have boycotted a retailer following a disappointing festive season delivery experience – retailers really can’t afford to leave customers with empty stockings this year.”

Steve Rivers, CEO of Intelligent Reach:

“The upcoming ‘Super Weekend’ of Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday forms the start of the build up to the busiest period for online retailers.

In order to maximise this opportunity, retailers need to consider both the offering and accessibility of products. This means ensuring products are everywhere that consumers are looking – rather than expecting busy shoppers to seek them out – in a format they expect and in the right ‘language’; whilst also making sure offers are competitive when price sensitivity is heightened.

Especially important during the busy Christmas period, retailers should consider discounting at a product level rather than offering blanket discounts across the entire product catalogue; such approaches can often result in unnecessarily reducing margins where a retailer may have already been the best priced.

Other vital factors for a successful festive trading include stock availability, customer ratings and delivery dates which all form a key part of the buying process.

Ultimately, whilst avoiding getting swept along in the discount frenzy this Christmas, careful planning combined with accessibility will help retailers take full advantage of heightened consumer spending.”

Chris Wood, Managing Director, Barclaycard:

“The majority of consumers now expect more value from their purchases, and are increasingly being drawn to the great deals being offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Over the past year we’ve seen consumer confidence grow steadily and this is now being echoed in spend growth.

“It seems UK shoppers can’t resist a bargain, however, which accounts for the boom in online sales we’re expecting this year. As the trend for bargain hunting Christmas gifts shows no sign of dying down, online retailers can look forward to a successful long weekend of shopping to kick off the Christmas shopping season.”

Dominic Trigg, Managing Director of Rocket Fuel EMEA:

“It is clear that UK consumers have now whole-heartedly embraced what are traditionally US-centric shopping days in Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as more and more UK retailers offer discounts and deals in the lead up to Christmas.

“Black Friday in 2013 saw a 19% increase in visits to retail websites compared to 2012’s level, while, Cyber Monday saw consumers log over 115 million visits to retail websites which was a 9% increase from 2012. For 2014, it’s expected these numbers will be exceeded as retailers like Amazon offer consumers great deals of up to 40% off to drive online transactions over this period.

“Currently online transactions account for 19.9% of total UK retail spend. However, online sales are continuing to grow in popularity with the UK expected to spend £107bn online this year, breaking the £100bn mark for the first time. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are expected to be two of the biggest drivers in surpassing this spending milestone.

“At this time of year, consumers are on the lookout for bargains and are likely to pay more attention to online offers they receive. Rocket Fuel’s research has revealed that nearly two thirds (63%) of consumers pay more attention to online advertising during days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday.”

Jon Woodall at Space 48:

“When it comes to anticipating how much Cyber Monday will affect UK e-sellers, I think the only answer is that time will tell. Looking historically, we can see that this day had a significant impact on many retailers last year and with more also getting behind Black Friday, it looks likely that the phenomenon of Cyber Monday will also grow this year. With this in mind, for those who are ready and engage, it could have a huge impact. For those who do not, they run the risk of losing market share during the key ‘holidays’ period.”

Damian Hanson, CEO at One iota:

“Adopting technology within the bricks and mortar stores is key for retailers looking to make the most of the sales opportunity this Black Friday. Historically, when a store runs low on certain items, consumers have been left disappointed and frustrated as they are forced to look elsewhere. By tapping into technologies such as iPads carried by sales assistants or in-store kiosks, retailers can grant customers access to a wider range of online stock, creating a joined-up, integrated shopping experience that continues even once the shelves have cleared, thus maximising sales.

“With British consumers expected to spend more than £1m every three minutes this Friday, we will have to wait and see which retailers apply technology to make the most of the opportunity and walk away winners.”

Fiona Cincotta, a senior market analyst at

“I struggle to remember UK retailers ever pushing Black Friday as much as they have done so this time around. Black Friday is traditionally a US themed retail drive and its crossed the Atlantic over recent years but this year feels extremely different. Why? Because UK retailers, especially supermarkets, are struggling and are in the middle of a structural decline driven by price deflation. So that’s why this Christmas season is going to be absolutely crucial to a number of grocers and general retailers which is why Black Friday has been pushed so much this time around. Consumers have wised up when it comes to shopping around for bargains – a key factor behind retail price deflation – and so there’s every chance that Black Friday could well have much greater traction this year than any other. However, the real question is at what cost this brings to underlying margins? Can retailers counter this through strong sales volumes? I am not convinced just yet and would rather wait until the post-Christmas data verifies whether retail tactics have won out.”

Rory Dennis, Founder and GM of Amplience:

“With the elevated number of visitors to ecommerce sites over Black Friday sales, retailers also need to ensure that the right content is available across all channels. Adaptive user experiences – content that automatically adjusts to different consumer devices – helps retailers give shoppers the consistently good multichannel experience they are expecting. When consumers have a wealth of offers to shop from online, a shopping experience that is efficient and seamless can make or break a sale over Black Friday, and convert customers beyond just the weekend.

“Over peak sales times like Black Friday where nearly all retailers are offering massive discounts online, product images should stimulate, seduce and drive the imagination of the customer. Shoppers should be able to imagine holding, using and owning the product when they interact with digital product media. For example, a high quality image can show an amazing level of detail of fabrics, making the shopper feel like they are there in store. With the increasingly high screen quality offered by today’s devices, retailers that don’t offer deeply engaging brand-led experiences with stunning, interactive imagery and video across all consumer devices will certainly lose out over peak sales periods.”

Mike Herbert of personalised gifting website, commented on the extension beyond the day itself, suggesting that Cyber activity isn’t limited to Monday after all – but manic across the whole weekend as we see websites crashing:

“The fact that websites are crashing left, right and centre make it clear that cyber activity is not in fact restricted to Monday. Whenever the deals are there, so are the shoppers – regardless of the day! For those running offers over the promotional period, it’s going to be manic all weekend.

“By offering 20% off, we’re able to further support the UK shoppers on their quest to get a good deal to kickstart December spending as consumers look to stock up on seasonal gifts. Little discounts here or there help shoppers to get the best products and stretch their budgets that bit further, and so far it’s been very popular. It’s obvious that there are a lot of people looking for a bargain on all kinds of items today.”

Greg LeTocq, founder of brand new digital gift card service,, commented on the retailer’s perspective of missing out on Black Friday and what it can mean for their business, as well as the extension of Black Friday beyond homewares and electricals to all kinds of seemingly unrelated services:

“The long weekend of Black Friday, Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday is always going to be a huge attraction for the crowds when it comes to electronics and homeware, but 2014 has been a year in which we have seen more and more new industries picking up on this trend to offer special deals to commemorate the iconic discount period. It’s brilliant to see that those looking to freshen up their hairstyle, pick up some cheap pet food or accessories or, of course, begin their Christmas shopping can do so with some cut price gifts.

“This is a way of stores and brands jumping on board to get a slice of the action this year and pull customers in. As far as consumers are concerned, a deal’s a deal – and the more the merrier. Considering the potential increases in basket values, the boost to online traffic or footfall and the promotional opportunity, it’s a chance that shouldn’t be missed. Many big brands worry about the effect of cutting prices on their quality perceptions, but this weekend is arguably the one and only time of the year when even the biggest consumer brands and luxury retailers can get away with taking part in the spirit of Black Friday. Those who decided against it this year are no doubt kicking themselves as they watch the results of great deals on the news today!”

Professor Chris Edger, retail expert from Birmingham City University, claims that customers will be the only winners on Black Friday, where they will be able to gorge on super-cheap pricing and ‘fill their boots’ on electrical and white goods:

“So how useful is Black Friday to retailers? Defensively it will become a must – unless companies want to lose market share to their rivals” says Professor Edger. “However, based on the evidence in the US, Black Friday will become a ‘vampire retail squid’ – spreading out throughout the month sucking margin out of November trading! Indeed, Amazon – setting the trend in the UK once again – has already started its ‘run-up’ promotions to Black Friday on Monday 24 November.The margin consequences of this move – as consumers become addicted to November discounting and expect it as a matter of course – could have grave consequences for profitability over the longer term for some retail players. Although, once again – those organisations with efficient click’n’brick and on-line models – will benefit more from the November ‘feeding frenzy’ than those that don’t!”

Dan Wagner, eCommerce veteran and CEO of Powa Technologies:

“With the retail sector’s performance faltering all bets are placed on Black Friday and Cyber Monday to make up for lost ground. Large-scale discount days do indeed lead to a spike in sales on the day, but that is not enough to revert the bigger picture of the industry’s performance. Retailers need to open their eyes to the transformation of the retail landscape and adopt long-term strategies that fit into the changing consumer habits.

“Mobile commerce is fast becoming the dominant channel for consumer engagement. Mobile platforms have changed not only how people shop, but have also enabled them to look for deals and bargains on an ongoing basis and make the most of them on the spot. With greater levels of control and freedom offered to consumers, retailers hoping that individual sales events are enough to make up for a year’s profit loss risk never making it into the black”.

Maureen Hinton, Global Research Director, Conlumino:

“Having been first introduced to the UK market by Amazon just a few years ago, Black Friday and Cyber Monday have been increasingly embraced by UK shoppers. Shoppers across the pond have traditionally viewed the Thanksgiving weekend as the start of the Christmas shopping season and – while UK shoppers don’t have the connection to Thanksgiving – the pro-activity of UK retailers with their heavy marketing and deep discounts, allied to the rising influence of e-retail, has played well to an enduring sense of austerity. According to our research, conducted in partnership with SAS, just under a fifth of shoppers have long planned to purchase Christmas gifts online on Cyber Monday as part of their Christmas shopping cycle, highlighting that the success of the weekend is down to a strong cocktail of impulse-led and planned purchasing behaviour.

“Nonetheless, over two-thirds of UK shoppers feel that Christmas discounting is losing its impact, which is hardly surprising given that the last few years have seen retailers engaging in more and more promotional activity throughout the year. Against this backdrop, it will take deeper levels of discounting on the products and brands that shoppers actually want to effectively drive demand this year; over half of consumers are planning to shop around for the lowest price once they’ve picked their Christmas gifts.

“The weather is a major concern for retailers in the run-up to Christmas, with 68.9% of large retailers saying that it has a medium-to-high influence on performance and, indeed, aside from the traditional high profile offers on electricals products, we expect strong discounting in clothing. Many fashion retailers will be looking to this weekend as an opportunity to get back on track, following an unseasonably mild start to the Autumn/Winter season, which has impacted demand for products such as jumpers, coats and scarves.”

Please find below comment from Bridget Treacy, managing partner and head of privacy and cyber security, London, Hunton & Williams, on the dangers of cyber-attacks aimed at retailers ahead of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“Retailers are under constant attack and can be easy targets for cyber criminals, putting them and their customers’ data at risk. At this time of year, in particular, retailers need to redouble their efforts to monitor their security systems and remain vigilant.

“Aside from direct attacks on the retailer’s own systems, service providers to the retail sector can be an area of vulnerability. Retailers need to think carefully about the many service providers who may process customer data for them, and ensure that there are no chinks in the chain of data processing that supports the business.

“Internal security risk is a further area of vulnerability. Disgruntled staff can cause real damage, as can well-meaning staff who simply make mistakes, potentially exposing customer data.

“As businesses becomes ever more global, security incidents may raise legal issues across several jurisdictions. Increasingly, security breach notification is expected in Europe, even if not yet a mandatory legal requirement in all countries. Regulators ask ever more probing questions on security, and increasingly focus on arrangements for subcontracting data processing to service providers. Regulators will ask to see underlying contracts and, even where breaches do not need to be reported, may still have the power to impose hefty fines where the necessary contracts are missing, or inadequate. Under the proposed EU data protection Regulation, fines of up to 5% of global revenue could be imposed for serious security breaches.

“Businesses must be able to recognise breaches, and know what to do when the inevitable occurs. Trying to figure this out in the midst of a crisis does not end well. Defending a business against cyber security risks also requires well-rehearsed processes for dealing with an incident. We are seeing companies running breach scenario planning and training exercises – often involving senior level executives. Breaches have a serious impact on reputation, and these companies are focused not just on preventing breaches, but ensuring that they plan for the best outcome should the worst occur.”

Andrew Fowkes, Head of Retail Centre of Excellence, SAS UK & Ireland, said:

“Following an expected online shopping frenzy starting on Black Friday and continuing beyond Cyber Monday, some consumers may regret their impulse buys. According to a survey earlier this month by SAS and Conlumino, almost three in four shoppers say online purchases should be allowed to be returned in store. This pattern could become known as ‘Return & Run’ where they simply return unwanted items or ‘Shop & Drop’ where they make new purchases at the same time as returning unwanted goods.

“With shoppers becoming ever more unpredictable in their buying and returns behaviour, Black Friday can no longer guarantee a healthy profit for retailers, even with the appeal of bargains, same day deliveries and ‘Click & Collect’ services. As well as wanting to return online items in store, some shoppers are also experiencing ‘promotion fatigue’ – more than two-thirds of consumers in our survey think discounting has lost its impact.

“Matching product promotions to different consumers is a complex puzzle – especially when consumers are not shopping for themselves. Analysing data is the only way to solve it. Unfortunately, 44 per cent of retailers said they still rely on gut feel for forecasting demand, and nearly half (47 per cent) said they promote the same goods every year. Big data analytics extracts key insights from the data so retailers can accurately forecast demand for different products among different consumers, and ultimately deliver consumer satisfaction.”

With Black Friday and the Christmas shopping season about to kick off, please find below comment from security expert Trey Ford, Global Security Strategist, Rapid7, on how retailers can improve their security levels for in-store shoppers following the high-scale breaches this year.

Preparing for Black Friday – Security Guidance for Retailers

Given the surge of high-profile retail breaches this year, stores should take extra precautions to heighten their security levels this holiday season. Beyond replacing POS devices for more secure electronic payment systems, retailers can use these guidelines:

  • Double check network restrictions and segmentation, third-party access, customer access, contractors, service providers and your supply chain of partners and vendors.
  • Perform a thorough security and vulnerability assessment of your entire infrastructure including your corporate network, endpoints, servers and other critical assets. Identify points of weakness, patch or harden where possible, and prioritise investigation when anomalies occur.
  • Review security standards and expectations for employees, educate them on typical social engineering schemes, scenarios and techniques- empower them as custodians and care takers.
  • Make two-factor authentication mandatory for remote access to the corporate network and enforce strong password management policies.
  • Ensure wireless networks and any handheld devices are using the highest level of encryption available, rotate keys where possible.

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