Will Black Friday drive another nail into the coffin of Irish retail?

25 Nov 2016

Faced with a weak sterling and aggressive UK online sales, Irish retailers who haven’t embraced e-commerce are facing into an uncertain new reality. Image: leolintang/Shutterstock

It is Black Friday and across the world – well, in the US especially – people who yesterday gave thanks for everything they have, will today want more. But will Black Friday and next week’s Cyber Monday sound a death knell for retailers who aren’t online?

The Black Friday sales day tradition – America’s equivalent of the January sales in Ireland – has migrated across the Atlantic. It’s a phenomenon even now in Ireland and the UK, where punters will hunt for bargains online and offline, especially those in consumer electronics.

According to data from a number of sources – including Wolfgang Digital and XSellco – Black Friday and Cyber Monday are now a big deal in Ireland and the UK, whereas in countries like Germany, it barely gets traction.

‘The Irish consumer spends more time and money online than their European counterparts’


According to data from Ray Nolan’s e-commerce company XSellco, for Irish-based retailers, Black Friday sales last year were 68pc higher than a normal Friday, whereas sales on Cyber Monday were just 25pc higher.

Mobile phones were the biggest seller in 2015 and sold more than 84pc against a normal weekend. Tablets (up 134pc) and TVs (up 69pc) were also strong performers.

“International sales events like Black Friday and Cyber Monday can make or break an online seller,” said Victor Corcoran, chief executive of XSellco.

“Shoppers are clearly delaying spending on big ticket items so that they can take advantage of sales promotions over this weekend, so it is essential retailers grab their attention with unbeatable deals.

“Our review of Irish retailers selling globally on Amazon shows that in 2015, Black Friday provided a considerably bigger uplift than Cyber Monday. At XSellco, we are working to help retailers in Ireland and overseas to make sure their products have the best chance of being snapped up by eager shoppers. This means knowing the trends and cultural differences between different markets and tailoring your strategy accordingly,” Corcoran said.

Irish retailers need a defensive strategy for Black Friday

Will Black Friday 2016 drive a nail in the coffin of Irish retail?

Wolfgang Digital CEO Alan Coleman. Image: Dave Keegan

According to digital marketing agency Wolfgang Digital, Irish interest in Amazon.co.uk is 30pc higher than 12 months ago, based on Google Trends search data. This is mostly driven by the sterling weakening against the euro by 26pc.

As Black Friday and the crucial Christmas shopping period approaches, Wolfgang Digital CEO Alan Coleman says Irish retailers need a defence plan to prepare for this shopping swing towards English websites.

Last year, Black Friday was the busiest day of 2015 for half of the online retailers surveyed by Wolfgang Digital, with revenue up 116pc year on year.

Coleman warned that this golden Christmas period is make-or-break for Irish retailers and anybody suffering a 30pc loss will struggle.

He said that because online shopping is habit-forming, the pain of lost custom for Irish retailers who don’t address this could continue into 2017, as consumers form new relationships with UK retailers.

Responding to questions from Siliconrepublic.com, Coleman said Irish retailers will feel the pinch.

“I believe it’s likely the growth will slow rather than move to decline.”

He referred to the Wolfgang Digital Ecommerce Report 2015, where 2015 saw Q4 revenue jump by 54pc.

“So if we discount this by 30pc, we might lose to British retailers who are still seeing healthy growth.”

In terms of defence tactics in the face of a weaker pound, Coleman said that if companies can’t compete on price, then they need to think outside the box.

“First of all, you need to compare an Amazon UK purchase against your own offering. How do you compare on price, delivery and returns? This will inform your defence message. If you can’t compete on price, then delivery will be a key battleground, so for example: ‘Our delivery is three days faster than UK orders’.

“No one wants the nightmare of an empty Christmas stocking … due to failed delivery. Don’t let it be your fault.”

He said ‘Buy Irish’ is another compelling message. “Then utilise Google Customer Match to ensure when your customers are searching Google for Amazon.co.uk that your ads are front and centre, advertising why people should continue to shop with you.”

With significant numbers of Irish retailers still offline, Coleman said that the appetite of the Irish consumer for buying online is growing.

“E-commerce is in robust shape in Ireland. The Wolfgang Digital E-commerce Report 2015 found that revenues increased 45pc in 2015 over 2014.

“The Irish consumer spends more time and money online than their European counterparts.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years