With non-essential stores now closed until December, IMRG is forecasting online retail sales growth in the range of +35-45% during the Black Friday peak trading period (23rd-30th November).

2020 has been a year of huge growth online, up +34.9% so far (whereas in 2019 it was up +6.7% overall). Given the general situation – with shoppers being actively encouraged to try to bring some of their festive purchasing forward to avoid delivery backlogs too close to Christmas – there is a possibility that shoppers might be more responsive to Black Friday campaigns earlier in the month this year, says IMRG, which is tracking 320 retail sites to see when their campaigns go live,and says that this year there has been a trend for earlier launches – with 4.3% of them live on 4th November, while for the same day in 2019 only 2.3% were.

Andy Mulcahy, strategy and insight director at IMRG, says: “We were anticipating a huge surge online this peak, and circumstances have conspired to ensure that is the case – the stores are closed, furlough has been extended and shoppers are being advised to get the bulk of their Christmas shopping done before December. There is a possibility that could mean people buy spend more in the early weeks of November, pulling some of the volume away from the Black Friday week – that seems the only realistic reason why the online spend for that period could come in lower than +35%.”

Justin Opie, MD at IMRG, adds: “This year’s huge growth rates, and the expected online bonanza the Black Friday period will deliver, underline retail’s rapid structural shift online. This does not feel like a temporary development – further evidence is no longer required that this is a permanent shift. Retailers, including those with stores, with strong online propositions, will continue to trade well. Those without, for whom it’s not already too late, must adapt now if they are to survive.”