UK Black Friday sales down year-on-year, data shows

LONDON (Reuters) - Black Friday spending in Britain fell year-on-year, credit card data showed on Friday, dealing a blow to retailers who had hoped for strong sales at the start of the Christmas shopping season.

Barclaycard, which processes nearly half of all UK debit and credit card transactions, had as of 1300 GMT seen a 12 percent drop in the amount spent, though the volume of transactions was 15 percent higher than seen at the same point of last year’s Black Friday.

“Our data shows that people have been making a higher number of less expensive purchases than at this time last year,” said Konrad Kelling, managing director of Barclaycard Payment Solutions.

“This suggests that, while Black Friday is clearly encouraging shoppers to buy, consumers are more likely to be purchasing smaller ‘treat’ products, rather than splashing out on high-end items.”

Britain’s retailers were hoping Black Friday discounts would get shoppers spending again after a torrid year for much of the sector that has seen a string of store groups go out of business or announce shop closures.

Retailers are battling subdued consumer spending, rising labour costs, higher business property taxes, growing online competition and uncertainty over Brexit.

Some retailers said the event had got off to a busy start. Dixons Carphone's DC.L Currys PC World electricals business said it had seen three orders per second. Best-selling items included the Nintendo Switch Neon Red games console.

John Lewis [JLPLC.UL], Britain’s biggest department store group, said the number one searched-for products so far on Friday were Apple Airpods and the Applewatch series 3, which had savings of 15 pounds and 60 pounds respectively.

Separately Britain’s National Cyber Security Centre warned that Black Friday sales could be targeted for cyber-crime. The UK’s cyber-security defence agency, part of the GCHQ intelligence service, said shoppers should be wary of risks and take precautions.

Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Louise Heavens and Jan Harvey