Retailers are reporting a strong start to Black Friday trading as millions of Britons logged on in the early hours to snap up bargains and again on their way to work.
John Lewis said overnight sales through its website were ahead of expectations as shoppers placed five orders every second. The most soughtafter items included Sonos Play 1 wireless speakers, with one sold every 10 seconds, and Marc Jacobs perfume, it said.
“Sales on johnlewis.com exceeded expectations overnight,” said Dino Rocos, operations director at John Lewis, who added: “We have carefully planned for this year’s Black Friday event to ensure orders can be fulfilled without compromising customer service.”
In the six years since Black Friday arrived in the UK the action has shifted from high street stores to become a predominantly online event. The association for online retailers, IMRG, thinks £1.27bn will be spent online today, up 16% on last year. It will be the busiest day in a week of promotions that is expected to deliver online retail sales of £6.77bn in the seven days to Monday 28 November.
According to Nationwide its customers spent £33.9m between midnight and 10am, up 57% on a normal Friday. More than 630,353 transactions were completed during this period, it said, a 40% increase on Black Friday last year.
John Lewis said that is busiest period to date had been between 8am and 8.30am as people shopped on their way to work. Sales through mobile phones were up by more than fifth between 8am and 9am, it said.
Argos chief executive John Rogers said there had been 500,000 visits to its website in the first hour of online trading between midnight and 1pm – up 50% on last year. The company said its top sellers included iPads, games consoles, Dyson vacuum cleaners and Beats headphones.
Rogers said the company was better prepared for Black Friday than last year after rigorously testing its systems, but there were reports of outages during that busy first hour. Last year the websites of several major retailers, including Argos, crashed due to the volume traffic, and in the early hours of today shoppers reported glitches on the Currys PC World and Tesco sites.
Sebastian James, chief executive of Currys PC World owner Dixons Carphone, said: “UK stores and online very busy so far. Our deals are the strongest ever.”
Although stores such as Currys PC World, Sainsbury’s and Tesco opened their doors early, turnout around the country appeared low as stores – many of which had been running deals for several days – struggled to compete with the welter of online deals. Currys PC World said more than 500,000 shoppers had visited its website before 6am with orders, up 40% on 2015.
Diane Wehrle, an analyst at Springboard which tracks shopper numbers, said she expected fewer people to visit high streets and shopping centres on Friday, despite the lure of discounts, with footfall down 7% and 5% respectively on last year.
“Though shopping centres in general have performed less well than the high street this year, they tend to fare better on Black Friday due to having multiple retailers all under one roof which offer larger discounts,” she said.
One area that is expected to buck the trend is London’s West End. Steven Medway, operations director at New West End Company, said it expected stores in the area to ring up sales of £115.5m on Friday, up 5% on last year, as tourists flock to the area.
“We are seeing more international visitors coming into the West End to shop with the pound being lower,” said Medway. “Based on footfall and sales data we [the West End] have been outperforming the rest of the UK since the Brexit vote in June.
“The queues are less obvious, because the discounts run over the weekend. As a result you don’t see the panic buying of the early years [of Black Friday],” added Medway.
This article was written by Zoe Wood and Sarah Butler, for theguardian.com on Friday 25th November 2016 13.06 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010