Retailers have reported customers flocking for deals on toys and electricals ahead of Christmas as Black Friday footfall numbers surged across much of the country.

Two games controllers next to a stack of games in front of a screen

Games consoles have performed well

As of midday on Friday, footfall across all retail destinations was up 7.1% compared with the previous week, with shoppers looking to make the most of Black Friday deals, according to data from MRI Software, formerly Springboard.

The largest rise has been seen across shopping centres where footfall jumped 11.2%.

In terms of regions, central London has seen the most significant rise, with footfall traffic jumping 13.1% from last week and 1.5% ahead of Black Friday last year.

MRI Software marketing and insights director Jenni Matthews said: “The largest rise in activity witnessed so far today came from shopping centres, which is likely to be attributed to their attraction factor with free parking in many cases alongside a variety of large brands, stores and hospitality options, allowing consumers to truly make a day of it with everything under one roof.

“Regionally, central London has seen the most significant rise in footfall today at 13.1% and is also 1.5% higher than last year, which indicates that the recent decision by Jeremy Hunt to not reintroduce a tax-free shopping policy for tourists has not dampened shoppers spirits this Black Friday.

“This may well be due to consumers already having plans to travel to the city or regional cities outside of London, where footfall rose by 7.2%, for shopping or leisure reasons.

“For many people, payday will have fallen today, which may be the final payday before Christmas. Therefore, today’s Black Friday Sales will provide them with ample opportunity to grab some festive bargains, which again is positive news for retailers.”

While online transactional data for Black Friday has yet to be published, Barclaycard figures show that the volume of transactions leading up to the event was higher this year than last – a mark of how much earlier retailers launched offers this year.

Credit card transactions were up by 1.42% year on year for the week between Thursday, November 16 and Wednesday, November 22, 2023.

Barclaycard said that more than a third of its consumers planned to use the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year, increasing to 50% for those aged between 18 and 34.

Marc Pettican, head of Barclaycard Payments, said: “Over the last few years, we’ve seen Black Friday Sales arrive earlier and earlier, with shoppers spreading their spending over a longer period of time.

“Although the cost of living may be impacting some shoppers’ spending on non-essential items, many are still taking the opportunity to bag a Black Friday bargain. No doubt this will be welcome news to retailers, who may have anticipated a slower November as shoppers’ budgets continue to be squeezed.

“It’s also encouraging to see that transaction volumes this week reflect a much busier shopping period than a regular week within the year, too. Retailers will undoubtedly hope that sales remain strong throughout today and over the weekend.”

Tech sales surge

Currys said sales across its “tech treat” offers were up by 111% over the past two weeks, with sales of gaming consoles (131%), health and beauty tech (190%), coffee machines (105%) and air fryers (75%) all driving custom.

Argos reported a surge in toy sales ahead of Christmas, with substantial discounts on Lego and Duplo products proving particularly popular with customers.

The retailer is also offering customers a five-times increase on Nectar points on purchases between November 23 and 28, and is offering price-promise deals across Black Friday.

John Lewis has so far reported a 31% increase in sales of small electricals, singling out air fryers and wireless earphones in particular.

Sales of toys are also up at the department store retailer and it noted that customers had been stocking up on “sweet treats for friends and family”, with sales of gifting chocolates up 23% year on year.

Sales of its apparel are also surging, with a piece of knitwear being sold every 30 seconds on average since offers launched, while in home silk pillowcases have proved a surprise hit.