This year’s Black Friday is off to a slow start as non-essential store closures across much of the UK have seen payment volumes decrease year on year.

As of 9am today, retailers have seen a 13.2% decrease in the volume of payments from customers compared to the same period on Black Friday last year, according to data from Barclaycard.

Barclaycard, which processes £1 in every £3 spent in the UK, said it expected Black Friday sales to be down this year due to non-essential stores being shuttered due to coronavirus restrictions, and predicted that stores could expect an uptick in sales from next Wednesday, when the lockdown ends. 

Barclaycard Payments chief executive Rob Cameron said: “Black Friday has always been a primarily in-store event. In a typical year, about two-thirds of the transactions we process on Black Friday come from in-store sales with the rest coming from online. This year, with non-essential businesses unable to open across large parts of the UK, and retailers spreading out their online deals throughout the month to avoid a bottleneck, it’s no surprise that transaction volumes are not living up to last year’s record-breaking highs.

“Instead, we predict that Wednesday, December 2 – the end of the national lockdown in England – will see a surge of shoppers heading back to the high street to hunt for bargains in-store with transactions likely surpassing what we’re seeing today. As a result, the milestone that retailers should start focusing on is not Black Friday but Black Wednesday.”

While the day has started slowly for many retailers, many businesses began offering Black Friday sales much earlier than they would normally with stores being closed. 

As a result, according to IMRG strategy and insight director Andy Mulcahy, online sales for the month of November “have been very strong right up to this week”.

IMRG data found that in the first week of November online sales were +61% year-on-year, +57.8% in the second week and +56.2% last week. 

Mulcahy predicted that online sales growth for this week, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday, would be between 35% and 45%.

“If this week is strong too, and the trend line suggests it should be still despite the strong start to November, we could see 100 million to 120 million parcels shipped from orders placed online this week,” he said. “The only thing that might scupper that is stock problems, already seeing a few out-of-stocks on some sites”.

He also noted an increase in the number of retailers offering site-wide Black Friday discounts this year compared to normally. 

“On Monday, over 70 had some kind of site-wide discount available, while for the Monday leading into Black Friday week in 2019, only around 35 had that type of discount live,” he said. 

‘Biggest Black Friday ever’

With broader sales having been offered to customers for longer periods, a number of retailers are already reporting promising sales on the day. 

A spokeswoman for electricals retailer Currys PC World said 2020 was set to be “the biggest online Black Friday ever” with a 42% increase in online orders. 

She said orders peaked on the retailer’s website at “nearly four orders a second” and said the busiest time in terms of traffic on the site was at 9pm last night. 

Orders for large screen televisions were up 68% compared to Black Friday 2019, while headphones were up 76%. Apple iPads saw the largest increase at 170% on last year.

Carphone Warehouses’ website also broke records for traffic, up 73% year on year.

A spokeswoman for specialist retailer The Entertainer said Black Friday sales “are off to a great start for us. The site is extremely busy and we’re on track for a record day.”