Amazon has fired the starting gun on Black Friday, the US tradition that has become a near-fortnight long £10bn shopping extravaganza in the UK.
The web giant has been joined by other high street street names, including Argos and Currys PC World, in making an early start to the bargain shopping event on Friday 23 November.
Amazon and some big chains have lined up discounts on tens of thousands of products – from large-screen 4K HD TVs, wireless speakers, headphones to laptops – to entice reluctant Britons to start spending from this Friday.
The high street crisis, from which 85,000 retail jobs have disappeared in the first nine months of this year, means shoppers have not had to wait until November to get their hands on a bargain as desperate retailers cut prices to attract shoppers. But the promotions planned between now and Christmas will be key to the fortunes of retail chains that make the bulk of their profits at this time of year.
Zoe Mills, a retail analyst at the consultancy GlobalData, said that even though there had been “prolific discounting” already this year, Britons were expected to spend £10.4bn during the Black Friday sales, which is 3.1% more than in 2017.
“We have seen more clothing retailers participating in the event each year and while a number of big names such as Marks & Spencer are not participating, online stores such as Asos, boohoo.com and Gymshark are encouraging consumers to move online to get a discount.”
When Black Friday arrived in the UK five years ago, the promise of a bargain led to scuffles as shoppers scrambled to pick up deals. But in recent years the event has become more sedate as shoppers surf the internet from their sofa to find the best deals, particularly on coveted home appliances and personal gadgetry such as smartphones and fitness trackers.
A number of chains, including M&S, have turned their back on Black Friday as it puts pressure on them to cut prices at what should be the industry’s most profitable time.
Amazon is billing this year’s wave of promotions as its “biggest ever Black Friday sale” with tens of thousands of “lightning deals” that offer bargains in limited quantities. The biggest reductions include a 55in Philips 4K Ultra HD TV for £1,199 – a £300 discount – and more than £100 off DeLonghi coffee machines.
Currys PC World is also slashing the price of big-screen TVs with deals that include £500 off a 55in LG 4K Ultra HD TV at £1,299 and £200 off HP laptops. Argos is also running deals with 30% off Hive smart cameras at £129 and a Fitbit Blaze smart watch for £109.
In previous years shoppers have sat on their hands in October and splashed out in the Black Friday sales. This trend showed up in the monthly ONS figures with retail sales falling last month as shoppers kept a tight rein on spending amid the growing Brexit uncertainty.
A poll of 2,000 shoppers by GlobalData found that 40% intended to make a Black Friday purchase and more than half of that group had delayed buying what they wanted until now to take advantage of the deals.
“It highlights how Black Friday is encouraging shoppers to hold back buying full-price items and heavily impacting retailer sales in the weeks prior to the event,” said Mills.