UK retailers warn of Black Friday shortages

UK retailers warn of Black Friday shortages

LONDON Reuters -- Britain's retailers are hoping that Black Friday will get shoppers spending, but it takes place against a backdrop of shortages of both products and drivers to deliver them.

The Black Friday trading period in Britain is particularly important for department store group John Lewis, consumer electricals retailer Currys and AO World, and general merchandise retailer Argos, which is part of the supermarket group Sainsbury's.

Some major retailers, including Marks Spencer and Next, don't want to participate, as are Tesco, Britain's biggest retailer, and Asda.

On the eve of Black Friday, UK retailers reported the strongest pre-Christmas demand since 2015, but also the biggest price rise since 1990, as fears of shortages led shoppers to buy gifts early, according to figures from the Confederation of British Industry.

The Black Friday weekend could see a strong sales surge but shoppers may find that the deals on offer aren't quite as generous as they used to be in the past, said Sophie Michael, head of retail at BDO.

Supply chain disruptions, product shortages and higher costs will mean retailers won't feel compelled to race to the bottom on price, as they have done in previous years. On Tuesday, AO warned of limited supplies of games consoles, including Sony's PlayStation and Microsoft's Xbox, and Apple's iPhones, blaming the global shortage of semiconductor chips.

Sainsbury's warned shoppers this month to beware of a shortage of electronics products.

Currys has said it is well stocked.

The shortage of heavy goods vehicle HGV drivers is compounded by the shortage of labour in domestic transport and warehousing networks.

Black Friday participants are stretching promotions over several weeks in an effort to smooth out consumer demand and reduce logistics pressure.

The event's worth to retailers is still divided over a decade after being brought to the UK by Amazon.

Supporters say carefully planned promotions in close cooperation with global suppliers allow retailers to boost sales and maintain profit margins.

Naysayers argue that the discounts suck forward Christmas sales with reduced profit and undermine consumers' willingness to pay full price before Christmas.