Black Friday: record number of shoppers to experience 'online queues' as customers ditch high street

Black Friday
Black Friday

A record number of shoppers are expected to endure website outages and "online queues" today, as City watchdogs say long waits could encourage them to spend more.

Ahead of today's Black Friday bonanza John Lewis and Debenhams' websites have already buckled under the pressure of an unexpectedly large demand from online shoppers. went down yesterday evening for half an hour amid a "massive" surge in shoppers hunting for deals. A spokesman said special measures were being put in place to ensure there are no outages today and over the weekend. also crashed for a short period on Wednesday night, leaving bargain hunters frustrated.

Last year Currys PC World’s website struggled in the early hours of Black Friday and there were also issues reported with the New Look, River Island and Missguided websites. 

In response a number of websites, including, have now installed online queueing systems to appease frustrated customers.

David Duke, chief operations officer at e-commerce and digital agency Visualsoft, said: "A queuing system will only kick in if websites' maximum customer threshold has been reached. Big retailers need to put extra measures in place for tomorrow as it is set to be a record day for online consumer spending - and subsequent website chaos." 

But far from putting people off, shaky websites and long online queues may actually encourage Black Friday shoppers to spend even more money, City watchdogs have said. 

Black Friday | Consumer rights
Black Friday | Consumer rights

In a shopping report published yesterday, the Financial Conduct Authority said: "There are many factors encouraging us to buy on Black Friday, for example, we may succumb to the ‘sunk cost fallacy’, whereby the more effort we invest in something, the less likely we are to abandon it. So after spending all that time queuing, we’re more likely to buy something."

It comes as record numbers of shoppers are ordering items via websites instead of braving the shops with online sales likely to far exceed last year’s £1.23bn record, according to Deloitte.

Mobile spending now accounts for £1 in every £5 spent online over the Black Friday period with the amount spent this way up by a third on last year, TopCashBank data shows. 

By contrast high street store sales figures are expected to be up by just 4 per cent on last year, with past scenes of in-store brawls over cut-price televisions unlikely to be repeated.

Overall Black Friday spending this year is set to rise with shoppers expecting to spend an average of £246 according to Kantar Worldpanel.

This is a 9 per cent increase from 2016 when the figure was £225. It It comes despite a challenging economy and 37 per cent of British adults claiming they are struggling to meet financial budgets more than 12 months