The watch industry has thrown itself wholeheartedly into Black Friday sales, with the overwhelming majority of retailers kicking off sales tomorrow, and most continuing those sales over the weekend and into Monday, which is known as Cyber Monday.
WatchPro emailed around 200 watch retailers yesterday with a few questions about what they think of Black Friday, and what their plans are. The findings are analysed here by Rob Corder.
The research is somewhat unscientific, but nonetheless enlightening. It points to an industry that has embraced Black Friday, although in many cases reluctantly.
Asked for their view of what Black Friday means to them, only 29% described in as good, while 41% answered that it was a necessary evil, or words to that effect.
It is likely many retailers would prefer that the American Black Friday sale, which was created to shift stock after the Thanksgiving holiday, had never crossed the pond.
But most now believe it is an event that retailers cannot afford to ignore. Scott Lucas, e-commerce manager at First Class Watches expressed the view of many of his peers when he said: “In today’s fast paced, multi-channel environment, consumers are very savvy with regards to promotions. While it can be very difficult to meet customers’ expectations, it would be perilous to ignore the trends that have now been very much instilled in purchasing behaviour.”
That explains why 71% of retailers we spoke to are holding a Black Friday sale.
Drilling into the feedback from retailers a little more, it is clear that the luxury retailers are less willing, and are actually prevented, from discounting their biggest watch brands. Consumers hoping to see cut-priced Rolexes, Pateks, Cartiers and TAGs are going to be disappointed. So, while Watch Shop and Goldsmiths are holding huge sales, Watches of Switzerland from the same Aurum Group stable, will not.
The Watch Gallery also said that it will avoid Black Friday, but The Wonder Room within Selfridges will be offering some bargains.
Harrods says it will not do Black Friday because it wants to maintain excitement for its Winter sale that starts of Boxing Day.
There are luxury watches being discounted, but they tend to be end of line or pre-owned watches. Across the retail landscape, including fashion and fine watch shops, there is a reluctance to cut prices on all product lines. Fewer than one-third (30%) of retailers said they would discount everything in their shops and online.
The scale of discounts is also mixed. Over half of retailers aim to limit their price reductions to less than 20%. Most told WatchPro that they would have a range of discounts, with a focus on shifting older stock using the deepest discounts, while small discounts on the most popular lines would be used – particularly online – to lure people in.
The American moniker of Black Friday is somewhat misleading, with only a small number of retailers restricting their sales to a single day. Just 17% of retailers we spoke to are going this route, and they tended to be the people that see the whole thing as a necessary evil that they wish had never come to this country.
The more enthusiastic say that Black Friday is the starting gun for the Christmas trading period and want to milk it for all it is worth.
The most popular duration for a Black Friday sale is four days, starting on the Friday and ending on Monday, which has also been given a snappy name of Cyber Monday because customers tend to buy online well ahead of Christmas to make sure goods are delivered in time.
Bricks and mortar stores were most likely to have either three day sales, lasting over the weekend, or extended sales of up to a week.
Finally, we wanted to put Black Friday into a bit of context, and asked retailers to describe how they are feeling about business in this crucial fourth quarter. We gave an option of answering from one to five, with five being the most optimistic. Not a single retailer gave a one or a two (least optimistic), so the pie chart you see here reveals an industry that is very confident about increasing sales this year compared to last.
That optimism is, perhaps, linked to Black Friday. If consumers have been waiting for Black Friday before starting their Christmas shopping, it would explain why the industry as a whole is slightly more negative on how they feel in general about the pre-Christmas trading period that retailers would like to see start as early as possible.
We did not give retailers a choice of words to describe how they feel about the pre-Christmas trading period, so the pie chart here has been created by grouping broadly similar expressions of people’s feelings into simple categories. Those we have labelled as rapturous were typically selling luxury watches; hardly a surprise when GfK says that sales of watches priced at over £1000 were up 53% in October.
The neutral people were often the same people that gave a 3 (quite optimistic) to the previous question. They had typically had sales broadly in line with 2015, but were optimistic that the fourth quarter would beat last year.
WatchPro is extremely grateful to every retailer that answered our questions, and hope they don’t mind the answers being distilled down into this unscientific report and the analysis of broad trends that we discovered.
If you would like to share your thoughts on Black Friday and the Christmas trading period, please feel free to comment below.