By Chloe Rigby

Terry Murphy, director of the John Lewis [IRDX RJLW] National Distribution Centre (NDC), described the retailer’s approach to Black Friday at IRX 2017. Here are his key points.

The changing shape of Black Friday, and peak trading

Black Friday became an event for John Lewis in 2014, after awareness of the date started in 2013. Demand started to focus demand into sharper peaks, with more significant ‘events’. “Previously we thought Christmas was a gradual event,” said Murphy. “Black Friday has put an artificial spike in before Christmas that was spikier than anything else.” The OMG moment, he says, came in 2015, when there were three peaks before Christmas. The following year, “we planned the living daylights out of peak 2016.” One key challenge, says Murphy, is around price matching, as the retailer keeps to its ‘never knowingly undersold’ promise. “When other bricks and clicks retailers reduce a price on a tablet or a wireless speaker for Black Friday we have to price match it. The team works right through the night on Black Friday looking at the competition so we can price match – in 2016 we saw thousands of Sonos wireless speakers pumping through.” In 2016, more than half a million items were shipped on Black Friday, but the peak packing day is Cyber Monday. The busiest hour for Clearance was between 6pm and 7p on Christmas Eve, and on Christmas Day at 3pm there’s a conference call to discuss the day’s trading and look at the pent-up demand for Boxing Day.

Planning the event of the year

Planning for Black Friday starts on Black Friday the year before, says Murphy. That’s when the John Lewis logistics team asks how it would respond next year in the light of the current year’s experience. Every year there’s still a great…