RETAILERS are preparing to see whether Black Friday will boost footfall or drive more customers to the internet.

The American shopping event has become a UK institution in recent years, hitting a peak in 2014 with near-riots as some stores opened early to offer massive discounts.

But forecasts yesterday by industry group Springboard suggested that high street footfall could be 3.7 per cent down on last year. Online transactions were expected to rise by four per cent, but even that was a slowdown on the 2017 increase of 5.5 per cent.

B&Q has abandoned Black Friday entirely this year, saying almost half of consumers do not plan to shop during the event.

Bournemouth-headquartered Beales is offering offers every day in the run-up to Black Friday, with bargains announced on social media and emailed to holders of loyalty cards.

Chief executive Tony Brown said: “If you look on TV, everybody’s got Black Friday deals a week before Black Friday and a couple of weeks after. What started as a post-holiday sale in America the day after Thanksgiving has become a phenomenon. I don’t think they do it in Asia but in the western world it’s a common parlance for another sale.”

Beales’ offers have included a set of Dartington glasses discounted from £40 to £11.99.

“That will go back after up after Black Friday but it it’s those types of things that our buyers go out and find, to be able to promote for that period of time,” said Mr Brown.

He said he could not imagine the store “walking away” from Black Friday. “The retailers have calmed down, so you won’t see those hordes of people outside Asda when they’re selling a 50-inch screen at £100 or something silly,” he said.

“Everybody’s walked back from that to a much more sensible approach to put good offers in front of the customer.”

Ali Sheik, of the Bournemouth brand and PR agency GM Collective, said: “Some businesses will see an increase in revenue and that is great news for them and their staff as retail is a tough place to be right now. You could also argue that Black Friday keeps retailers on their toes and pushes them to offer not only better deals, but may help improve customer engagement and experience.

“Amazon are the obvious retail behemoths who loom large over Black Friday, but there have been signs of discontentment in recent years over employee working standards, which has seen their staff target Black Friday with strikes to help them voice these issues and hit the company where it hurts.

“Some retailers have also been accused of raising prices prior and then discounting just before Black Friday so consumers feel they have secured a ‘fantastic’ deal, which in reality isn’t that great.

“As the antithesis to Black Friday, consumers are increasingly aware of the negative impact that increased consumption can have on the environment. Some businesses are now are adopting a circular economy approach to make their products last for longer and make them more environmentally-friendly.”

Springboard has said Black Friday brings Christmas spending forward, boosting trade at the end of November but suppressing it for weeks afterwards, until retailers reveal their last-minute deals.

This year has been a tough one for retail, with Toys R Us and Maplins disappearing entirely and others closing branches, including Carpetright, Mothercare and Marks & Spencer.