In the week immediately after the typical Black Friday/Cyber Monday peak shopping weekend, it’s interesting to consider the ways in which things are looking different this year.

The usual push to consumers started early this year and it’s likely to continue for longer. Black Friday felt more like Black November, with emails containing offers coming throughout the month. This is partly thanks to lockdown restrictions meaning everything has had to take place online. It therefore made sense to start early to ease the resulting pressure on supply logistics to fulfil customer orders.

Shifting through the gears with supply chain planning software

With some consumers bucking the online trend, instead preferring to wait for shops to re-open, the usual purchasing wave is set to keep rolling on. There’s a chance that the lifting of lockdown on December 2nd will have brought about a ‘Black Wednesday’ bump when people could again shop in-store.

So far, spend is down, but this may be due to the extended nature of the seasonal offers this year. Data from Barclaycard Payments, which processes £1 in every £3 spent in the UK, showed that sales on Black Friday (November 27th) had declined 16.7% compared to last year and Cyber Monday (November 30th) sales were down 9.9%. Still not bad results for a lockdown sales event.

With discounting being the standard approach at this time of year, many brands have turned their focus to the overall experience; delivery commitments and consumer support have both played large roles in many offerings.

Christmas chaos?

In recent years we’ve seen retailers’ last guaranteed Christmas delivery slots moving later and later in an attempt to gain an edge over the competition. But social distancing; stock challenges; already inundated postal and courier services; and the early impacts of impending Brexit are creating challenges for fulfilling fast delivery turnarounds. Next-day or even same-day delivery is becoming harder to guarantee and no retailers want to be the ones disappointing their customers with late parcels – not this year!

Despite the easing of restrictions for a brief period of Christmas exemption, many families will still face challenges getting together over the festive season. This means it’s likely that online sales will continue throughout this period as people find themselves out of their usual Christmas patterns.

The 5am Boxing Day queues are also unlikely this year. Although some shoppers will hold on to their habits of in-store purchasing, the mad dash to the shops won’t be seen at its usual level. Without the focused event of big sales in stores themselves, perhaps the discounting will continue online longer into the New Year to account for the more diffuse attention the offers will be receiving from consumers. 

What lasting impacts will we see?

We’ve looked before at lasting shifts in consumer behaviour, particularly the trends which had already been emerging for some time. The restricted conditions faced by the retail sector have undoubtedly accelerated many of the changes that we are now seeing the impacts of.

With continued uncertainty and little historical data thanks to new patterns of behaviour developing, planning for 2021 is going to be even more challenging. Taking an overview of what is happening at the macro level is therefore just as essential as analysing the trends emerging within your own inventory ecosystem.

Getting a handle on the unpredictability of consumer demand overall will give you a baseline for the scenario planning and forecasting required to boost your recovery and resilience for the next phase of this evolving retail landscape.

Let us show you the impact that the AGR software can have upon your capability to deal with demand fluctuation. Get in touch  today to see just how much of a difference it could be making to your service levels.