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A recent online petition asking UK authorities to grant Boxing Day the same status as Christmas Day, whereby stores above a certain square footage are required to be closed, has attracted more than 100,000 signatures, meaning that a Parliamentary debate will be triggered. But how important is this historically busy shopping day in the grand scheme of things given the recent rise of pre-Christmas discounting in the UK?
It took only a couple of years for Black Friday to take root in the UK. Now it has begun to localize, becoming more digital and lasting for more than just a day. Data from GfK indicates that digital is accounting for ever-greater proportions of total retail sales during what’s now being called “Black Friday Week” in the UK. This year that proportion stood at 48%, up from 41% in 2015 and just 33% in 2014.
Heavy discounting is a big pull for UK shoppers, no matter on which side of Christmas it’s offered. But much of the pre-Christmas bargain hunting tends to happen on digital platforms, and the extension of Black Friday into a weeklong event is clearly popular. However, Boxing Day—the day after Christmas—still has a number of fans, though even here ecommerce is becoming more pronounced.
According to a November report from RadiumOne, 25% of UK internet users polled in July 2016 said they planned to shop digitally on Boxing Day. This is smaller than the proportions who planned to shop digitally on Cyber Monday, in the days immediately after Boxing Day or during the January sales, but still represents a bigger proportion than the 18% who planned to shop in-store on December 26.
A Boxing Day ban is unlikely to happen in any case, with the government having already stated that it doesn’t plan to interfere with retailers’ plans. However, digital’s impact on holiday season shopping habits may lessen any effect that a closure of physical stores on this day might have.
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