British shoppers are expected to spend £10.1bn in the week of Black Friday, nearly 4% higher than last year as more retailers take part in the US-inspired promotional day.
But the bargain fever seen in earlier years is thought unlikely to materialise as most activity will be online with experts warning that the discounts are likely to be less exciting on the day, which falls on 24 November this year.
Companies are finding it harder to deliver big price cuts amid strong inflation partly resulting from the fall in the value of the pound since last year’s Brexit vote, as well as rising business rates and other costs.
“Increased cost prices will mean retailers are unable to offer the level of discounts advertised in 2016, meaning demand may waver as consumers feel less inclined to make bargain purchases on impulse,” said Eleanor Parr at retail analysis firm GlobalData.
Gary Caffell from the consumer advice sight Moneysavingexpert said it was possible to get a good deal but warned: “There’s a lot of duds out there so do your research. Just because something says it is 70% it doesn’t mean it is a good deal. It might be cheaper down the road.”
Parr added that electrical products, usually the main focus of Black Friday discounts, were likely to be most affected by inflation with fashion and homewares also affected.
The fashion market has also endured a tough October and the ongoing relatively warm weather is likely to encourage stores to try and use Black Friday as a way to reduce stocks of coats and other cold weather gear.
Although Asda continues to play down Black Friday, with no special deals or activity planned on the day after tussles in a store three years ago, grocery discounter Lidl is joining the fray for the first time this year. Tesco is also ramping up activity with more than 700 stores participating and 187 of its largest outlets opening at 1am for bargain hunters.
Amazon, which helped introduce Black Friday to the UK, kicks off its sale on Friday, but some online electrical stores – AO and rival Currys PC World – began offering discounts on Monday. Argos started on Wednesday. All are trying to avoid a big squeeze on their delivery and IT infrastructure by spreading demand over a longer period.
Retailers have also invested heavily in improving their computing capabilities and delivery networks after 2015 when as many as one in five online retailer’s websites crashed on Black Friday under the heavy traffic, including John Lewis, Boots and Argos.
However, £1.74m is expected to be spent every minute online in the UK on Black Friday, according to figures from online trade association IMRG and the couriers insurance firm Staveley Head, with £700m spent before 9am.
Stavely Head predicts more than 82,000 vehicles will hit the road, with the top five delivery firms using nearly 20,000 extra vans and cars with more than 80% of Black Friday purchases delivered to homes.
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