'Another record year' for Black Friday sales anticipated

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Black Friday has kicked off the predicted biggest ever weekend of shopping in the UK with consumers expected to spend almost £8 billion on deals over the next four days.

Britons will spend just under £2.6 billion on Friday alone - an 8% increase overall on last year - and £7.8 billion over the four-day period including Cyber Monday, up 7% on last year, according to predictions by VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research (CRR).

Retailers are relying on a successful weekend and are hoping consumers will continue to spend confidently despite the first rise in interest rates in 10 years and a squeeze on disposable income driven by rising inflation and stagnant wage growth.

A number of big-name chains such as John Lewis, Game, Tesco and Argos have extended their high street opening hours and many retailers have already offered days of deals in a bid to maximise hype and spending around the global event.

The UK spends more money during the Black Friday to Cyber Monday event than in any other weekend of the year, new figures from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) based on a billion bank transactions show.

Last year shoppers spent more than £900 million more on debit cards compared to an average weekend, with the most "intense" increase in spending seen in the 45 to 65-year-old age group.

The FCA found no significant change to either arranged or unarranged overdraft use during Black Friday weekend or any evidence to suggest that shoppers were using their overdrafts to fund Black Friday weekend purchases.

The FCA's data team said: "What does this tell us? One possible conclusion is that a lot of UK shoppers are less bewitched by Black Friday than previously imagined.

"Another is that those who do spend more seem to plan carefully and save for the day, delaying purchases and waiting - and sometimes camping out overnight - for that gadget they've always wanted."

Ian Geddes, head of retail at Deloitte, said: "Black Friday and Cyber Monday have established themselves among the most important dates in the UK retail calendar.

"We expect to see another record year for Black Friday, with UK online sales likely to easily exceed last year's £1.23 billion record on the day itself.

"However, with Black Friday having grown from a day of promotions to what is now almost a month-long event, Black Friday event sales are far higher."

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said: "A lot of money will be spent today and on Cyber Monday next week, but the days of fighting in the aisles are over.

"Both retailers and consumers are more savvy about Black Friday than they were a few years ago.

Shoppers queue to buy gaming merchandise in games retailer GAME in Westfield shopping centre in Stratford during a Black Friday event
Shoppers queue to buy gaming merchandise at GAME in Westfield shopping centre, Stratford, during a Black Friday event (Rick Findler/PA)

"Stores know better than to give away massive discounts on items consumers were going to buy anyway, while they also spread discounts out over two weeks to cope with the massive strain that Black Friday puts on their supply chains.

"Shoppers, meanwhile, are better at spotting the worthwhile deals.

"Indeed, many consumers struggling with shrinking disposable income will have held back on spending in September and October to buy not just Christmas presents but goods for themselves too.

"On balance, we think that the power has swung back in favour of shoppers this year and we expect record online purchases over the next few days."

A survey by consumer group Which? has already indicated that more than half of deals last year were the same price or cheaper months either side of the event and has urged consumers to research prices thoroughly before committing to a purchase.

The dodgy Black Friday deals you're probably best off avoiding today.
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-- Which? (@WhichUK) November 24, 2017