Online Black Friday will be a stiff test for the virtual high street

Online Black Friday will be a stiff test for the virtual high street

Coronavirus may be doing its best to cancel Christmas but, for the time being anyway, shoppers are carrying on regardless, with this week’s Black Friday online sales expected to reach new heights.

In previous years, store chiefs have agonised about the impact on their high street chains of the US-inspired discount event, which arrived on British shores with a bang in 2013. But come this (Black) Friday, selling online will – for anything other than essentials – be the only game in town for retailers, whose shops may by then be closed in three of the four home nations.

Richard Lim, chief executive of consultancy Retail Economics, says lockdown 2 means a “seismic shift” towards online shopping this Christmas. Around 23 million Britons are expected to do most of their gift buying on the internet, in a development that will starve struggling high streets of much-needed business.

“I think people are well aware that this Christmas is going to be completely different,” he says. “They are not going to be able to go to their local town centre or shopping mall and have the same pleasant experience as they had last year.”

It took years to be able to cope with pre-pandemic demand. The industry can’t suddenly go from 20% online to 60%

Richard Lim, Retail Economics

The virtual high street has already gone into overdrive: online sales are up 58% in the second week of November compared with the same period last year, according to internet industry body IMRG.…

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