Footfall was “lacklustre” on the high street on Black Friday as shoppers opted to seek deals online this year.

According to retail intelligence firm Springboard, footfall sunk 3.6% year-on-year on the day of the Sales frenzy, with shopper numbers on the high street down 4.2%.

Golden Quarter

Golden Quarter

However, consumers made the most of offers online on Black Friday with ecommerce sales jumping 6% year-on-year, according to data from PCA Predict.

Figures recorded by Barclaycard, which processes almost half the UK’s credit and debit transactions, point to the Sale event being an overall success.

It reported a year-on-year increase in both the number of card payments and the amount spent on the day. By 5pm on Black Friday, spend was up 7% and the amount of transactions had risen 32%, according to the payments processor.

DPD chief executive Dwain McDonald said its figures supported the view that Black Friday was more of an online event this year.

The courier revealed it shipped a million parcels on Black Friday alone and 1.9 million from Friday to Sunday inclusive – a 22% jump on last year – which McDonald said was “incredible”.

“We’d certainly argue that Black Friday started earlier than ever and has stayed on stronger into the weekend itself this year”

DPD chief executive Dwain McDonald

However, he claimed the shopping surge really started two weeks ago and parcel volumes had been running 18% up on last year from the week beginning November 13.

“We’d certainly argue that Black Friday started earlier than ever and has stayed on stronger into the weekend itself this year,” said McDonald.

The footfall slump on the high street was attributed in part to the squeeze on household income by Springboard, but it also flagged that the event was “stretched across the week” with some retailers starting their Sales long before Black Friday itself. 

There was a premature end to the day on the UK’s most famous high street as many retailers shut up shop early on Oxford Street after an incident at Oxford Circus Tube station led to a mass evacuation and armed police on the scene.

Selfridges, Debenhams, Topshop and House of Fraser were among the retailers that closed early.

Online peaks and crashes

The day got off to a sluggish start online, with sales down 2% year-on-year between midnight and 1pm. But the Sale gained traction later in the day with online transactions outstripping previous years from around 7.30am onwards.

PCA Predict head of marketing Chris Boaz said shoppers had taken a “more laid-back approach” to Black Friday this year, choosing to shop on their lunch hour rather than staying up late on Thursday evening to grab bargains as soon as they were released online.

Online activity peaked between 1pm and 2pm – reaching 618,790 transactions, up from 553,940 the previous year. 

Some retail websites collapsed under the weight of the hordes of bargain hunters flocking online. Next, John Lewis, Boots, Ted Baker and Game’s websites all crashed at times throughout the day, according to according to analysts at ecommerce agency Push On.

However, ecommerce consultant Ampersand said that website performance had improved on recent years; 14% of major retailers running Black Friday Sales had website issues this year, down from 22% in 2015.

Ampersand said only three retailers had downtime that prevented shoppers from making transactions.

Retailers toast Black Friday success

John Lewis said Black Friday was the “biggest ever day in [its] trading history.” 

Operations director Dino Rocos said that sales on had “exceeded expectations”.

The department store claimed to have achieved its “busiest-ever hour” of online trading between 9am and 10am.

During this hour, an average of 705 units were purchased per minute on the department store retailer’s website, with ‘iPad’ being the most-searched-for term throughout the day.

Sainsbury’s Argos was one of many retailers that had a drawn-out Black Friday promotional period. The retailer said it registered 53 million visits to its website after its Black Friday event launched on November 15, which represented a 13% jump on last year.

“Sainsbury’s Argos said it had a record day for both TV sales and video-gaming on Black Friday, and sales of smart technology soared 60% year-on-year”

It experienced its busiest-ever hour online from 9pm to 10pm the Thursday before Black Friday, when 810,000 shoppers flocked to its website.

Sainsbury’s Argos said it had a record day for both TV sales and video-gaming on Black Friday, and sales of smart technology soared 60% year-on-year. 

Sainsbury’s Argos chief executive John Rogers said Black Friday continued to be a “colossal event” for its customers.

Meanwhile, Dixons Carphone chief executive Seb James took to Twitter to thank staff for “an astonishing Black Friday and promo week all across the group”.

Promotions continued over Black Friday weekend and into Cyber Monday, November 27, which is traditionally the busiest online shopping day of the year.