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Shoppers go to town as UK rings in biggest-ever Black Friday sales day

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The UK has rung up its biggest Black Friday sales day ever, data suggests, with shoppers spending more than one-fifth more than last year as the high street bounced back from pandemic lockdowns.

The number of payments via Barclaycard, one of the UK’s biggest debit and credit card issuers, were up 23% between midnight and 5pm compared with the same period in 2020, when most of the UK high street was in lockdown, and was up 2.4% on 2019.

However, Rob Cameron, the chief executive of Barclaycard Payments, said he did not expect total sales to be too far ahead of 2019 as some more expensive items, such as kitchen appliances and electronics, were not selling as well because of supply problems.

He said independent businesses were benefiting from the return to high streets but restaurants, cafes were likely to be the big winners as families and friends made the most of being able to gather together again. “People are going back to more in-person experiences,” he said.

Nationwide said its customers had made 5.95m purchases by 5pm, 26% up on last year and 24% up on 2019. Mark Nalder, head of payments at the building society, said: “Black Friday spending has continued in line with our expectations and is still shaping up to be the busiest shopping day of the year.”

Despite online retailers’ fears of a slowdown after last year’s surge in internet sales prompted by high street store closures, the logistics technology group Metapack said it was on course to handle more parcels than on Black Friday 2020.

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Better sales of clothing, leisure and sports items helped offset lower volumes of toys, electronics, technology and homeware, all of which have been affected by delays in supplies from the east and south-east Asia.

Retailers, including the specialist and John Lewis, have said Black Friday sales could be hit by potential product shortages because of limited supplies of microchips, factory stoppages in the Asia-Pacific region caused by the pandemic and problems with international shipping.

John Lewis said it had seen a “brisk start” to trading on the day with demand for beauty and fashion particularly strong, as the UK prepares for its first Christmas party season in two years.

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Health and beauty specialist Boots said it had experienced its busiest hour of online trading all year on Friday morning, with three orders a second coming in.

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The figures show the UK is on track for shoppers to spend almost £9.2bn this weekend – 15% more than in 2020 – as predicted by analysts at GlobalData for the VoucherCodes Shopping for Christmas report.

The surge in sales comes despite disquiet about the spending spree, with Amazon’s largest UK warehouse blockaded by climate activists targeting the global online retailer on its busiest day of the year.

About 20 Extinction Rebellion activists stopped lorries from entering the company’s Scottish distribution centre in Dunfermline from 4am. The group said it was also protesting at sites in Doncaster, Darlington, Newcastle upon Tyne, Manchester, Peterborough, Derby, Coventry, Rugeley, Dartford, Bristol, Tilbury and Milton Keynes.

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An XR spokesperson said: “The action is intended to draw attention to Amazon’s exploitative and environmentally destructive business practices, disregard for workers’ rights in the name of company profits, as well as the wastefulness of Black Friday.”

The online fashion specialist Pretty Little Thing drew criticism for offering clothing items for free among its Black Friday deals while its sister company Boohoo offered 99% off some items.

Many small stores decided to boycott the day or offer alternatives such as “colour Friday” highlighting creative ideas at local independent shops. Some big high street names including Marks & Spencer and Next ignored the event while others offered greener alternatives.