Black Friday Fades in U.K. Stores as Shoppers Turn Online for Deals

Black Friday was lacklustre along London's Oxford Street as more customers turned online to pick up much anticipated deals.

U.K. retailers have reported a surge in online shopping today, while footfall looks to be down.

Oxford Street, London's prime tourist shopping destination, looked like a normal Friday, with a shop assistant in an American retailer saying it was no busier than usual. And an employee at another well-known American mall staple said sales were steady but not busy.

Gap (GPS) was the only store that saw a good flow of people in the Black Friday morning in London, while its sister brand Banana Republic wasn't inundated with crowds.

Line in Gap in London.
Line in Gap in London.

Gap shares were recently down 1.34% to $25.82 in New York.

To be sure, Thanksgiving is not a holiday in the U.K. but the fall in the pound since the Brexit vote was expected to be a big draw for tourists.

Data from Experian show that sales over the Black Friday weekend from the Thursday to the Monday netted more than £3 billion ($3.73 billion).

Accenture consultancy firm Salmon predicts consumers will spend £5.5 billion from Thursday, Nov. 24 to Monday, Nov. 28 in the U.K.

Data from the Confederation of British Industry released today show strong growth in retail sales. Its monthly retail sales index rose to 26 in November, the highest it has been since September 2015, confounding expectations that a vote to leave the European Union would dull consumer spending.

Economists say that the boost may be due to overseas visitors taking advantage of a devalued pound.

However, it was a different picture online, U.K. retailers said.

Argos, a variety catalog store with a strong online presence, said that it had a 50% boost in traffic between midnight and 1 a.m. local time on Friday. It also saw 700,000 web visits - 80% of which were on mobiles and tablets - between 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. GMT, with iPads, PS4s and Dyson vacuum cleaners doing well. Argos was recently bought by supermarket chain Sainbury   (JSAIY) . 

Currys PC World, an electronics retailer, said it had more than half a million visitors to its website before 6:10 a.m. GMT on Friday.

And Amazon (AMZN) reported brisk trade on Friday morning as part of its Black Friday event, which started on Nov. 14.

"We've had a very positive customer response to the thousands of deals during our extended 12 day Black Friday Sale and customers have been snapping up lots of our great deals on offer since midnight," Doug Gurr, Amazon's U.K. country manager, said in a statement.

Amazon stock was recently up 0.23% to $781.88 in New York. 

(Amazon.com is held in the Growth Seeker portfolio. See all of the holdings with a free trial.)

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