Black Friday 2016: High street stores deserted as shoppers crowd online

Shoppers are predicted to go on a £1.97bn spending spree – with more than half spent on the internet

Zlata Rodionova
Friday 25 November 2016 10:24 GMT
Will Brits ditch the high street on Black Friday?

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Black Friday has been known as the best day to hunt for a bargain as long as you’re wearing protective clothing and don’t mind fighting in the aisles.

However, a surge in online sales during the early hours on Friday, left high street stores looking deserted compared to the previous years.

Black Friday is increasingly becoming an internet bonanza; shoppers are predicted to go on a £1.97bn spending spree, with more than half that record sum spent on the internet.

John Rogers, the new chief executive officer of Argos, said there had been 500,000 visits to the retailer’s website in the first hour of online trading, between midnight and 1am. That is an increase of 50 per cent on last year.

The company said its top sellers included iPads, games consoles, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Beats headphones.

John Lewis said it received five orders per second overnight through its website, with Black Friday set to be one of its “busiest shopping periods”.

“Sales on exceeded expectations overnight,” said Dino Rocos, operations director at John Lewis

“We have carefully planned for this year’s Black Friday event to ensure orders can be fulfilled without compromising customer service,” she added.

Meanwhile, Currys PC World’s Black Friday deals webpage suffered a glitch just after midnight, according to tweets from early shoppers.

One customer asked: “Currys how is this happening?”

Another shared her disappointment by posting: “Glad I waited up for this”.

A spokeswoman said: “Currys PC World’s website experienced a few issues for a short period of 15 minutes just after midnight. The majority of customers were still able to access the site and place orders but we understand that some shoppers had problems loading the pages.

“This was quickly rectified and we have had no further reported issues. We’ve already seen over half a million visitors to the site between midnight and 6am this morning (with orders up 40 per cent for the same period last year) with the Google Chromecast, Samsung Galaxy Tablets and JVC 32in TVs being the most popular items for shoppers.”

Nationwide Building Society said £33.9m has been spent by its customers between midnight and 10am, up 57 per cent on a normal Friday.

Meanwhile, on the high street, stores were off to a slow start.

Only 20 people were seen queuing at Tesco in Trafford in the morning.

Shoppers also shared images of empty Sainsbury’s stores on social media, with one user saying she posted a shopper walking out from the store with just three baguettes.

In 2014, more than a dozen police officers attended the Tesco store on Glover Drive, Upper Edmonton, as scuffles broke out between eager and frustrated shoppers. Customers were seen tearing down cardboard hoardings put in place to hold back sale items until the stroke of midnight.

Andy Brian, partner at retail specialist law firm Gordons, said: “It’s no surprise that we didn’t have people queuing to get into stores like in previous years. This is partly because more retailers opted to spread out their deals over a longer period, but it’s also because of the growth of online and mobile shopping. Black Friday has still captured the attention of shoppers this year and it seems the appetite for a bargain is still there – but how consumers shop for those bargains is changing.

“People don’t have to wait until the stores open. Instead, they can search for deals at home or on their way to work – and the online trading figures for the early hours of Black Friday seem to show this was the case more than ever this year.

“Many retailers reporting staggering numbers of online purchases compared to high street sales in the first few hours of Friday. They would have been prepared for an uplift, of course, but even John Lewis said that online sales had exceeded expectations.”

One area that could go against the trend is London’s West End. Steven Medway, managing director trading environment at New West End Company, said he expected stores in the area to ring up sales of £115.5m on Friday, up 5 per cent on last year, as foreign spend continues and domestic shoppers begin their Christmas shopping.

He said: “The day is expected to herald a record £115.5m turnover, up 5 per cent on last year, which will build on a strong second half of the year for West End retailers following a post-Brexit boom in spend from international tourists.”

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