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The results are in! Meet this year’s Black Friday online winners and losers

16th December 2019

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There are few signs that the UK consumer’s love affair with Black Friday has worn off. This year’s sales event was declared ‘outstanding’ by Barclaycard, which processes about £1 in every £3 spent in the UK. The credit card company said transaction value was up 16.5% year-on-year, while transaction volumes increased by 7.2%.

According to Shopify’s analysis of UK merchants using its platform, online sales peaked at 9pm on Black Friday. Orders were worth an average £51.47, and shoppers took an average 21.93 minutes to complete their purchases, from the start of their visit.

However, not everyone enjoyed unbridled success, here are our UK winners and losers of Black Friday 2019.

Black Friday Winners

Thorough-bred department store John Lewis secured its place in the Black Friday winners enclosure thanks to a record 60.4% year-on-year increase in online sales during the week to November 30.

This year, John Lewis’ promotions period started earlier and lasted for 11 days, compared to eight days in 2018. In the first 10 days of the Black Friday event, sales were 9.5% up, compared to the same 10-day period around Black Friday last year, with big sales boosts coming from fashion sales (+71% YOY), home (+18%) and electrical and home technology (+81%).

The department store also reported a healthy 43% increase in traffic to its app during the sale period compared to the same time last year.

Boohoo has also reported a “strong” performance across the Black Friday weekend with key brands delivering “record” sales. The online fashion retailer said it was “comfortably in line” with forecasts for the rest of the year, having posted a 43% jump in revenues in its half-year period ending August 31. Boohoo added that its recently acquired brands MissPap, Karen Millen and Coast, now fully integrated on to the fashion platform, were “very well received” during Black Friday.

Meanwhile, mobile has been crowned the winner in the sales channel stakes, following strong statistics from the US. Here, mobile orders increased 35% on Black Friday, with 65% of all ecommerce flowing through smartphones, according to Salesforce. This caused Adobe to declare Black Friday 2019 “the biggest day ever for mobile”, tracking $2.9 billion in US sales from smartphones alone.

Black Friday Losers

Superdrug seriously blotted its copybook when its online checkout debited customer accounts even though the purchases failed to go through. In some instances, this seems to have been caused by Superdrug’s site crashing mid transaction. Other customers say they were charged multiple times even though a purchase failed.

Shoppers took to social media to vent their anger with one irate Facebook user posting a message to Superdrug’s page saying: “Your website kept saying payment server was down, but you have taken the money and I have no email confirmation! Superdrug, are you putting my money back in? You’re holding £100 in total of my money. This is totally disgusting.” A spokesperson for Superdrug blamed “huge demand” for their Black Friday checkout meltdown.

In the US, Costco and Nordstrom Rack’s sites crashed late on Thanksgiving Thursday, unable to cope with large numbers of shoppers attempting to access Black Friday deals.

NatWest and RBS proved they were not immune to Black Friday outages when their apps and online banking went down, making it impossible for customers to enjoy the sales. According to the website DownDetector, which records website failures, the banks began experiencing problems just before 9am on Black Friday.

Online shopper Emma Clarke tweeted: “NatWest you’re ruining everyone’s #BlackFriday what a day for your app and online banking to go down.”


As these Black Friday examples show, website problems can pack a serious double whammy for retailers. First, there’s the significant financial loss, especially during peak trading, and then there’s the longer-tail reputational damage that erodes hard-won customer trust and loyalty. Let’s face it, peak trading should be an opportunity to showcase excellent customer experiences and cement repeat custom – not alienate new and existing customers alike.

The most effective way to ensure your ecommerce platform is a winner during Black Friday and beyond is to take a customer-eye-view and examine the length of the buying journey using realistic customer pathways. Retailers are advised to continually test and optimise, using real shopper behaviour, and a realistic mix of end-to-end journeys including drop-off ratios, using real data from real events in their testing.

There are lots of performance metrics cited by different sectors of the ecommerce community, but customer experience should always be the number one goal for any retailer.

Download thinkTRIBE’s latest report ‘Preparing for Perma-Peak’ and discover how consumers are dictating the pace of the retail calendar, and the steps retailers must take to keep up online.