No bun fights please, we're British

Could social awkwardness save us from overspending on Black Friday?

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The Independent Online

Hold on to your wallets people, the season of mindless consumerism is upon us. But could the Great British character protect us from ourselves?

Rough estimates suggest that despite already having credit and loan debts of more than £3,700 per adult – about £1.5trillion in total – Britons are expecting to spend more than £420 each over next weekend alone, on top of their normal spend. 

But this may not be the frenzied, thoughtless spending it is made out to be. These are largely planned purchases, with about half of UK consumers waiting for Black Friday sales to buy key items. More than a quarter have been waiting since August and one in 20 stopped spending on big ticket items back in April in anticipation of next weekend’s deals, according to data from TopCashback.co.uk.

Electricals and fashion top the want lists of many, with one electrical retailer shifting 30 televisions a minute during last year’s sales. 

Crucially though, after such a build-up shoppers will be expecting big discounts – up to 35 per cent before they’ll part with their hard earned cash. 

At the same time, few relish the chance to camp outside key retailers for days on end in a bid to be in on the bun fight that ensues… because they don’t want to bump into someone they know. 

In fact, nine out of 10 Britons say they will actively avoid the shops next weekend, citing reasons that range from awkward encounters and hyperactive children to an allergy to overfriendly staff. 

Woefully inadequate parking and irritating music also come in at the top of the list of factors driving shoppers from the high street.

Above all, we want to avoid that very British past-time – queueing, according to a survey by Flubit.com. 

Instead, online sales are expected to rise further, with some predicting the total spend on Black Friday deals will top £5bn as the trend for a drop in footfall is expected to continue from 2015.

But we’re not entirely sensible and online spending won’t make us completely immune to silly purchases. For every 10 purchases, we will decide one was a mistake. That’s £441m of buyer’s remorse for just one weekend, warns Gocompare.com. 

And in the background will be the existing debts. In fact, more than 11 million people are still paying off purchases from last Christmas as the annual cycle of seasonal expectation comes up against the reality of only just being able to make ends meet in any given month as it is.

Mike O’Connor, Chief Executive of StepChange Debt Charity, said: "There is a lot of pressure to spend during the festive period and the result can be a stack of bills in the New Year that can be very difficult to deal with.

"Consumer credit is already rising at its fastest rate for a decade and more people approach us for debt advice in January than at any other time.

"People need to set a budget for Christmas and be realistic, then begin shopping early so they can spread the cost. Otherwise, they run the risk of money worries that cause them serious harm far beyond the festive period."

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