Black Friday affects footfall conversion for retail stores - fact or myth?

Juha Mattsson

I took 365 days of hard data from four retail stores in UK and the Nordics to understand whether Black Friday really had a significant effect on in-store conversion. This blogpost summarises what I learned.

The busiest time of the retail year is kicking off right as we speak. One of the peak points - both in terms of hair loss and anticipated revenues for retailers - is Black Friday (BF), which is just around the corner. Initiated in the early 2000s by North American retailers like Amazon, BF has gradually paved its way to UK and Europe, marking the beginning of the Christmas season for many.

I’ve even noticed a few retailers in my native Finland are making Black Friday something different from a standard Friday this year. Bear in mind Finland is not a country famous for being the fastest to roll out new retail concepts! Smart remarks aside, the hesitation might as well be about the wise, forward-looking managerial style of the Finnish business leaders as they are now able to observe their UK counterparts, such as Asda, to pull back their activities for Black Friday this year.

Rightly, retailers should ask the question: Why bother, what’s in it for us? Is the hassle worth the pain & cost? Does Black Friday bring us more sales and new customers?

We at Walkbase eat the above kind of questions for breakfast. In other words, our purpose is to help retailers to collect accurate, real-time customer behaviour data from physical stores. Not only that, we help retailers to optimise their stores’ performance for improved business results.

So I decided to pull my sleeves and dip my hands into hard data, to find out how Black Friday really affects consumers’ shopping habits in brick-and-mortar stores. I took 12 months of data from four selected stores - 2 supermarkets and 2 high street - and did some data crunching to answer the following questions:

  • How does BF compare to any other Friday?
  • Is BF able drive new customers to stores more than average?
  • Does BF initiate a snowball effect towards Christmas sales?

Even though this is not a sample to draw universal results from, I still believe we found something very interesting. 

How did Black Friday compare to the average Friday?

To bring more perspective to the analysis, I deliberately included one Finnish supermarket, with the prior knowledge that Black Friday was not promoted in any way at this store. The other three stores are in the UK, with both of the high street locations representing key shopping areas downtown London (Covent Garden and Oxford Street).

I then used the exporting tool of the Walkbase Analytics dashboard to get a full set of in-store KPIs for each store, covering a 365-day period beginning from Nov 1st, 2014. For the first part of the analysis I took a sub-sample of Fridays only, and started to compare how last year’s Black Friday (Nov 28, 2014) was different from the average Friday.

The findings were pretty affirmative, to say the least. Here’s what I found:

  1. First and foremost, all of the UK stores saw a statistically significant rise in the number of store visitors on Black Friday, ranging from 27% in the grocery store up to 101% increase in one of the high street stores. Doubling the number of customers entering your store is not bad at all!
  2. The Finnish supermarket didn’t grow visits on Black Friday and didn’t have any other significant effect either, as expected. Actually, they saw a 10% decrease in visitors compared to an average Friday.
  3. For two of the UK stores, Black Friday did not only grow visits significantly but also represented the most active Friday throughout the whole one-year period of observation.
  4. For both of the high street locations, the outside potential (i.e. passersby observed immediately outside the stores) was significantly higher too, around 20% higher than an average Friday. This indicates a general increase in shopping activity on Black Friday, even though both of the supermarket locations saw a strong reduction in outside potential that day.
  5. As can be already noted from the figures above, the general increase in people hanging around on Black Friday for shopping does not only explain the other improvements. The passerby conversions (conversion from passersby to store visitors, sometimes called capture rate) were also significantly higher, generally 20-60% higher than normal. This indicates that, thanks to Black Friday campaigns, these UK stores were able to attract a significantly larger share of bypassing people to visit their stores.
  6. Interestingly, in two of the stores - the UK supermarket and one of the high street stores - Black Friday was able to drive a proportionally higher amount of new visitors, compared to recurring visitors. This gives a direct answer to the second main question: yes, Black Friday holds the potential for driving new customers to stores.  
  7. In all UK stores, the median visit duration increased between 24 to 41%, indicating elevated levels of in-store engagement due to Black Friday.

To sum, the above findings - if not universal - seem to give a strong indication of the power of Black Friday to drive footfall and conversions for brick-and-mortar stores, compared to an average Friday.

Did Black Friday initiate a snowball effect towards Christmas?

Many retailers consider Black Friday as the on-setting moment for the Christmas season, with generally elevated buying activity until Santa kicks off with Rudolph to complete the world’s most extensive and fastest package delivery logistics operation.

For this question, I tested each of the four stores against two sub-samples: one covering three weeks just before Black Friday, and the other three weeks immediately after. I used a statistical significance test to determine whether any of the KPIs were significantly different between each time interval. 

It turns out that for all of the UK stores, more or less all of the KPIs were clearly higher for the latter period, with high levels of statistical significance (1). Most notably, total visitors and capture rate were systematically higher for the 3-week period following Black Friday. For the high street locations, the average daily number of visitors was around 50% higher for the latter period. Capture rates increased around 20%.

Importantly, the control “group” of my small study, i.e. the Finnish supermarket, did not have a significant change on ANY of the variables between the two comparison periods.

Summary of key findings

If the store manager of any of the four stores would ask my recommendation whether campaigning for Black Friday would make sense in terms of boosting retail performance, my advice would be clear: YES. And that would be a “yes” even for the supermarket in Finland.

To summarize the most important findings, I will highlight the following:

  • A proper implementation of Black Friday is able to attract a significantly higher number of customers to your store (both absolutely and statistically).
  • Black Friday also seems to be a good tactic for attracting new customers.
  • The very day also appears to be a great way to kick off a Christmas season period with a sustained effect on footfall until Santa brings us home for rest & peace.

Summary of key stats:

  • The number of visitors increased between 27-101% compared to an average Friday
  • Campaigning pays off: capture rates were 21-57% higher
  • Black Friday boosts engagement: dwell times were 24-41% higher
  • Generally 20% more people were out for shopping on high street locations
  • Black Friday was able to drive more new customers than recurring
  • The three-week period after Black Friday season showed up to 50% higher average footfall for the high street stores, compared to an equal period before.


(1) The UK supermarket did not show statistical significance for the 3-week before-after comparison (even though effect to the right direction). However when the 3-week period between BF and Christmas was compared to the full 12 months of data, results were significant.

Measuring Store Performance Over The Holiday Season


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