Express & Star

Tills set to ring with Black Friday billions

Black Friday has been synonymous in recent years with eager shoppers queuing outside shops desperate to get their hands on the best bargains.

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Argos workers prepare stock for customers ahead of Black Friday

Billions of pounds are spent in a bid to save money and to get ahead with the Christmas shopping list.

Tomorrow is expected to be no different with bargain hunters across the nation set to spend more than ever.

And it is here, in the West Midlands, that the average shopper spends more money than anywhere else, according to new research. A study by Gumtree, the classifieds ads website, found people in the region fork out nearly £79 on average.

That is more than in London (£78.89), which was second in a list of regions, and the North East (£53.95), which was bottom.

These figures account for Black Friday itself – but the discount event has stretched over a longer period than ever this year.

Big retailers like Argos and Amazon have had deals available throughout this week of up to 60 per cent off the usual price.

And their big distribution centres, like the Argos centre off the A38 near Lichfield, have been a hive of activity to ensure the shelves are filled.

The centre will pick 300,000 items for stores on Black Friday, that’s two million items across that whole week – the busiest week of the year.

It has also taken on an extra 300 staff to deal with the demand, taking the total number of workers on Black Friday to 900.

But not everyone is a fan of Black Friday, and it has come in for some criticism.

A survey of deals on offer for last year’s Black Friday has found more than half were the same price or cheaper months either side of the event.

Which? tracked the Black Friday prices of 35 of the most popular technology, home and personal care products sold by Currys PC World, Argos and Amazon to find that 60 per cent of the deals could have been found at other times during the year, or for a cheaper price. And there has also been research that has found people feel under pressure to part with their hard-earned cash as a result of the intense advertising that accompanies Black Friday. Some 23 per cent of shoppers told Gumtree they feel under pressure to buy something on the discount day – with clothing, coffee machines and gadgets among the top regrets.

The study found that 24 per cent of women feel pressured to buy something compared with 22 per cent of men, spending £59.06 each on average.

Despite this, men spend more – each splashing out £63.80 on average.

Ninder Johal, Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership board member, said: “On one hand, anything that can incentivise people to spend is good for the economy and particularly for the local economy.

“But there are negative aspects to this. When there is discounting you worry about profitability for some firms. Secondly it has been known to affect sales over the Christmas period. People spend more at the time but it has been known to delay purchasing later on. If it is a good way to move old stock, then great, But that used to be what New Year sales were for.

“Of course, over the long term it is great for the consumer if they continue to get discounts. Retail has been having a difficult time, particularly the high street, so from that perspective it is good.”

Mr Johal questioned whether the novelty of Black Friday is wearing off. He said: “In terms of interest there was lots when it first started and the whole thing was very new. I get the impression it is not as novel, however, as it used to be. People have slightly switched off to it.

“Pictures of people attacking each other in shops did not go down too well I don’t think. I still think it is largely a US phenomenon.”

Overall it is expected shoppers will spend £2.6 billion tomorrow, an eight per cent increase on the £2.4bn last year.

That amounts to £1.8 million per minute, according to predictions by VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research.

Online spending alone is expected to reach £1.15bn, up 15 per cent on 2016.

For now it appears Black Friday madness is here to stay.