Black Friday spending is expected to dip for the first time since its arrival in the UK as retailers brace for the start of a fiercely competitive Christmas trading period.
Consumers will spend £2.4 billion on deals in stores and online, down from last year’s £2.6 billion, according to the predictions from the Centre for Retail Research (CRR) and VoucherCodes.co.uk.
However spending across the weekend including Cyber Monday is expected to be up 6.4% on last year to £8.3 billion.
Just over a quarter of Britons (27%) feel “positive” about Black Friday, with almost a third of consumers (31%) planning to buy clothing, footwear or accessories on Friday, 24% being in the market for gadgets and home technology, and 22% expecting to buy toys.
The survey comes as watchdog Which? warned shoppers to do their research ahead of Black Friday after finding nearly nine in 10 “deals” available last year had been cheaper at other times.
Which? tracked the prices of 94 products, including TVs, cameras and fitness trackers, on offer over Black Friday 2017 from six months before until six months afterwards, finding that 87% of the items were cheaper at other times of year and nearly half were cheaper in the six months after Black Friday.
Analyst Springboard said it expected the sales event to do “very little” to help the high street, anticipating Black Friday footfall would be down 3.7% compared with last year and 2.7% lower over the weekend as a whole, and predicting online transactions will be down 5% on last year.
It said footfall and spending activity over this year’s Black Friday period is likely to be affected by economic pressures such as high debt levels and significant living costs, compounded by the event taking place a week earlier this year – before many consumers are paid for the month.
Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at Springboard, said: “Whatever happens on Black Friday, our data over the past few years has established that it brings Christmas spending forward.
“This creates a magnet of spending activity at the beginning the peak trading period which then suppresses spending until the final week before Christmas, when consumers take advantage of last-minute deals that are likely to be introduced by retailers to drive sales in what is a highly challenging trading climate.”
Andrew Westbrook, head of retail at audit, tax and consulting firm RSM, said competition between retailers to secure their share of spending amid the tough trading environment had led many to deeper and earlier Black Friday discounting than before.
He said: “Retailers such as Amazon and Debenhams have already started their sales in order to capitalise on early consumer online spend in anticipation of the cold snap keeping many indoors this week.
“The run-up to Christmas has never been more important to retailers’ results – and potentially their survival.”