Shoppers take their shopping online as Black Friday risks losing its urgent appeal

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Black Friday may be losing its urgent appeal, evolving instead into a more strung-out buying process in the run-up to Christmas, analysts have warned.

Shoppers pursuing the best deals are realising the best way to do this is online and over a longer period to track frequently changing prices, Consumer group Which? said.

Which? warned shoppers to "do your research" to avoid falling foul to bogus promotions after a study revealed half of last year's deals were cheaper in the months before and after Black Friday.

Gordon Fletcher, retail expert at the University of Salford, said that while "post-Thanksgiving holiday urgency" drives the day in the US, the bubble may have burst across the pond.

He said: "In contrast, for some UK retailers Black Friday is now the end-point for longer sales events which effectively diffuse the artificial panic of previous years."

A customer picks up a carrier bag containing
(Matt Dunham/AP)

Richard Jenkings, data analyst at credit reference agency Experian, agreed, saying the US import was just "the start of a longer, more drawn-out peak season, which begins with most of the activity online and then moves in-store as we get closer and closer to Christmas Day".

John Rogers, chief executive of Sainsbury's Argos, told BBC Radio 4´s Today programme that between midnight and 1am on Friday the catalogue retailer saw "over 500,000 visits to the website, up 50% year on year".

A store employee wears a shirt to help customers collect their Black Friday online sales purchases
(Matt Dunham/AP)

Currys PC World reported its "highest ever" number of orders - with an increase of 40% on last year. John Lewis said it was taking five orders every second online and the busiest period so far had been between 8am and 8.30am as people shopped on their way into work.

Explaining the online move, Pete Moorey, head of campaigns at Which?, said: "More and more people are now doing research online before they buy. Actually, a lot of people hate the busy crowds and stress, some don't like the constant Christmas music and others believe they will get better deals online."

Sony PS4 video game
(Yui Mok/PA)

He added that the only way people would be able to get the best deals was to use a price-tracker over a period of time - something that "we would never be able to know in a high street unless you are going to walk in with a spreadsheet".

He said research carried out last year showed the best deals were only for about 10% of goods, adding "for a lot of products out there people would have been better to wait".

People shop on Black Friday at Debenhams
(Charlotte Ball/PA)

Some 14 million British shoppers were predicted to go on a £1.97 billion spending spree on Friday - setting a new record - with more than half spent on the internet.

Online spending on Black Friday was expected to reach £1 billion, up 16% on last year, while it was anticipated that the majority who opt for the high street will spend a lower total of around £961 million.