Black Friday Chaos? How have we coped?

Huge surge in online shopping

Britain Black Friday

Black Friday appears to have moved online. Retail websites saw an enormous surge in traffic, as millions of people snapped up deals before breakfast. Overall, analysts say a record £2 billion will be spent during the 24 hours of Black Friday - more than half of which will be spent online. So has this shopping frenzy been fraught with difficulty?

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See also: Black Friday: the best deals on gadgets


Surge

John Rogers, the chief executive of Argos and Sainsbury's told the BBC that he expected Argos to see 70% of its sales online this year. He added that there had been a surge in the early hours, as more than 500,000 people went online between midnight and 1am this morning. This was 50% more than the same time last year.

Currys PC World, meanwhile, reported its highest ever number of orders online, up 40% from last year - with half a million visitors before 6am.

And John Lewis saw a huge peak in online shoppers between 8am and 8.30 am - when it saw five orders every second.

Amazon says the Echo and the Echo dot were among the bestsellers, while Currys says there was big demand for the Google Chromecast, Samsung Galaxy tablets and JVC 32 inch TVs.

Not just today

Those retailers who have been running deals for a few days have seen a steady and impressive uplift in online sales. Tesco says it has already had five million web visitors this week - 40% more than normal, while Very.co.uk said visitors were up 53% from the same period last year.

However, the early deals did nothing to dampen enthusiasm for shopping on Black Friday itself. Money-saving website www.VoucherCodesPro.co.uk, said it was seeing unprecedented traffic. Founder Nick Swan said: "It's clear that, despite attempts from retailers to try to spread out their Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals, consumers have still been holding out for today to get the very best deals on offer."

The experts say shopping will continue at unusually high levels until Tuesday. Swan says: "We're expecting this to carry on throughout the weekend and then peak on Monday." eBay, is also expecting traffic to stay around this peak for a few days. It expects 20.7 million UK visits over the long weekend.

How have they coped?

Last year a number of retailers struggled with the additional demand, and John Lewis, Tesco, Boots and Argos reported issues with their websites.

This year, reports of problems have been far thinner on the ground. So far there have been some issues with the Currys PC World website, which was running slowly for about 15 minutes just after midnight, and with Game, which as been notable for excellent Xbox and PS4 deals. In early shopping, buyers were having difficulties trying to check out with their bargains.

Overall, however, the sites have been more robust. Rogers said that there had been rigorous testing in the run up to the peak to ensure nothing went wrong.

The other issue to emerge as the day has gone on is a shortage of stock. Fashion brands offering massive discounts have found themselves running low on popular sizes, and popular beauty deals have been selling out.

Ghost towns

On the high street it was another story entirely. Shops that geared up with extra staff found themselves at a loose end. Debenhams on Oxford Street in London opened at 7am for shoppers to bag early deals, and just two shoppers were standing in line.

Store that saw scenes of chaos two years, witnessed orderly queuing from far smaller numbers, little rushing and no fights. At one branch of Tesco, 11 people queued for the stack of TVs just inside the door, and calmly took turns to pick them up when the store opened.

Instead of being destinations, it appears that the deals are encouraging people who were visiting anyway to spend a little more. All day, branches of Tesco up and down the country will be full of people who only popped in for a pint of milk on their mobile to their other half saying "I know it's a big TV for the lounge but it's only £150".

It seems that despite the fact that 14 million Brits are expected to take part - spending £2.3 million every minute - the move online has saved some of the uglier scenes we have seen in the past and made for a calmer and more civilized Black Friday.

Top ten facts about Black Friday

Top ten facts about Black Friday