Black Friday

The majority of shoppers appear to have switched to online shopping to secure their Black Friday bargains this year, with retailers across the country reporting much smaller crowds.

Last year was the first year in which Black Friday has really been a major event in the UK. Huge crowds filled stores as they clambered over each other to try and secure their bargains. In some cases, police were called to supermarkets to scuffles.

Many stores opened earlier than normal, but did not face the same crowds as last year. And many retailers have also reported increase sales through their websites.

Regardless of where they are coming from, analysts are expecting record Black Friday sales.

Visa Europe says that £1.9 billion could be spent in-store and online using its cards alone. Credit experts Experian and online retail group IMRG have forecast online purchases worth £1.07bn, the first time online sales will have passed £1bn in a single day.

James Miller, senior retail consultant at Experian Marketing Services, said: "There is little doubt Black Friday has dramatically changed the way people shop in the run-up to Christmas and has created an expectation of deep discounts that arguably did not exist before.

"Offline retailers in particular need to plan very carefully for this new 'spiky' festive period. While Black Friday offers the potential for a short blast of extra sales volume, this will be at the expense of margins during the most crucial period of the trading year."