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5 Things To Look Out for This Black Friday

Black Friday 2015 is here. What will apparel retailers be doing? We look at where the big discounts will be and reveal data ahead of Thanksgiving promotions
5 Things To Look Out for This Black Friday | EDITED

Try as you might, there’s no escaping it. We’re two days out from one of the most frantic shopping dates in the calendar. Black Friday is coming to get you.

This year’s event is already polarizing opinion (because, well, it does every year). There are two camps. First, the retailers who go hell for leather, letting prices crash through the basement floor as early as Thanksgiving eve (cough, JC Penney, Macy’s, Kmart, Target, Kohl’s, Wal-Mart and Sears, cough).  Second, those who are scaling back, or altogether avoiding the madness in favor of controlled promos throughout the holiday season. (Asda are opting out and outdoors outfitter REI will shutter its stores on Black Friday, instead paying its employees to ‘go outside’.)

Unseasonal weather and decline in tourism has already seen US retailers discounting heavily through November. There’s been an 103% increase in the number of products discounted Nov 1 – Nov 24 this year compared to last year, despite a 5.5% decline in number of new products arriving online during that time. That’s got potential to have a big impact on Black Friday this year.

But whatever happens, we’ll be tracking it all. Ahead of the mayhem, lets strip back to the facts we have, combining live market data with insights from last year’s event.

That Friday Feeling?

Despite doors opening on Thanksgiving (Thursday, for the unfamiliar), true to its name, the majority of discounts occur on Black Friday itself. Below you can see a huge spike in the number of products being discounted on the Friday of last year’s event. They then flatline over the weekend, before a final hoorah on Cyber Monday.

Black Friday Discounts US - EDITED
Number of discounts in the US across each day of the promo holiday.

In line with this, the most stuff also sells out on Black Friday. You’ve gotta move fast, kids. And given that we know relatively few new discounts activate over the weekend, it’s those Black Friday deals which continue to sell out across Saturday and Sunday. That lets us know retailers aren’t slashing prices on dribs and drabs of whatever they’ve got left hanging around – these are items with enough stock to feed interest through the promo period.

Black Friday sell outs US - EDITED
Number of items selling out over the Black Friday weekend at US retailers.

The retailers with the most discounts

So say you’ve got limited time (and perhaps interest) but want to scoop a bargain. These are the guys who, based on last year’s data, are likely to have the highest number of items reduced online: House of Fraser, John Lewis, Zara, SSENSE, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.

Zara is an unlikely candidate in there. They’re famously silent around sales periods. However, if there’s one thing we know about Black Friday is that it makes people do some crazy things. (Hell, I never did wear that zebra print leotard.) Last year in the US Zara knocked 30% off site-wide for Black Friday. Meanwhile the UK got a rawer deal, the retailer’s site there only offered 20% off on outerwear, sweaters, cardigans, T-shirts and boots.

Zara's US homepage on Black Friday 2014, as recorded by EDITED software.
Zara’s US homepage on Black Friday 2014, as recorded by EDITED software.

Where are the big bargains?

Last year, the category with the most 40% or higher price drops was the tops category, followed by accessories and footwear. Within tops, knitwear was the most discounted – far more than items like hoodies, kimonos, polo shirts, camisoles or crops. There are also bargains to be found in shirting.

Bargain hunters, the biggest #BlackFriday discounts will be found on knitwear. Thank us later.

Tops is pretty consistently the most discounted category year-round. It’s interesting to note however that on November 24 of this year the US market suddenly made accessories the most discounted category. That’s a sign of what’s to come in the next few days. With tight margins and sales fatigue, it may be retailers are using the accessories category to sail them through the promo season. More likely is that retailers in the last few years have been stung by selling out of apparel, with its high returns rate, during Black Friday weekend. Many retailers are then left without inventory in key areas during peak holiday spending time before purchases are returned and processed.

If you don’t get it this weekend, don’t despair

The holiday season is drenched in discounting. Sure, the most hype surrounds Black Friday weekend and its wider assortment of discounted items, but the level of discounting on top moving items (you know, the stuff that’s worth having) stays consistent right through December.

Average discount rates on sell outs stay consistent at 40% right through December. #BlackFriday

Discount rate of holiday sells outs - EDITED
Average rate of discounting on items selling out each week of December.

Some stuff you should wait until January for

For the magpies out there! If you’ve got a penchant for a little luxury and sparkle in life, keep your purse strings tied until the second half of January. That’s when evening wear and glamorous accessories get serious discounts, right through mass and luxury markets.We’re not sure where you’ll be wearing that stuff with the January blues, but that’s never troubled you before, bargain-hunter.

January sales discounts - EDITED
The hard January reductions may appeal more to some.

Consumers, on your marks. Retailers, we wish you the best of luck.

We’ll be conducting a full post-mortem of Black Friday next week. If that sounds like your thing, sign up to our Insider Briefing right below and you’ll be the first to know when it’s published.