[LONDON] Britain's shopping streets, out-of-town malls and websites will be awash with discounted goods on Friday as shoppers chase "Black Friday" deals in a spending frenzy expected to top last year's record level.
Retailers will be hoping the one-off promotions will kick-start Christmas trading after a weak November when, according to an industry survey published on Tuesday, sales grew at the slowest rate in nine months.
That will mean managing the event better than last year, when a surge in low-margin Black Friday sales was followed by weaker-than-expected demand, as shoppers held back in the hope of more discounts as well as traditional post-Christmas sales.
In the United States, Black Friday, the day after the Thanksgiving holiday, was so named because spending would pick up and retailers would traditionally begin to turn a profit for the year - moving from the red into the black.
Introduced into Britain in 2010 by US online retailer Amazon, the day has developed into an important fixture of the UK shopping calendar as more and more chains join in.
According to a survey by Barclays, some 77 per cent of UK retailers are holding Black Friday promotions. "Black Friday has grown enormously over the last few years and we're now expecting it to be the largest sales event of the year," said Stuart Ramage, e-commerce director at Dixons Carphone, Britain's largest electricals retailer.
Retail researcher Conlumino is forecasting the event will generate UK sales, both in stores and online, of 1.6 billion pounds (S$3.4 billion), up 20 per cent on 2014.
However, after last year's event caused long queues and sparked brawls in stores as shoppers sought bargains, it may be more of an online event this year.
Researcher FootFall reckons Black Friday in-store shopper numbers will be down by up to 4 per cent year-on-year, also impacted by some retailers - including Amazon, Argos, Marks & Spencer and Dixons Carphone - elongating Black Friday activity beyond a single day of discounts.
This year, Amazon is offering more than 7,000 deals over the course of a week, while Dixons Carphone is offering over 3,000 deals over 10 days.
At Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, Black Friday started on its website at midnight, while doors will open at 250 of its largest stores earlier than normal at 0500 GMT.
The supermarket is offering over 200 electrical, entertainment and mobile products with discounts of up to 70 per cent. Standout offers include a Digihome 49-inch large screen TV for 199 pounds, saving 150 pounds.
Despite the publicity, some analysts are wary of the impact of the discounts on retailers' pricing power, pointing out that some of chains which shunned the event last year, such as clothing retailers Next and Jigsaw, were among the best Christmas performers.