Shoppers be ready - Black Friday and Cyber Monday are on their way to Suffolk

Christmas shopping Tower Ramparts shopping centre

Christmas shopping Tower Ramparts shopping centre - Credit: Archant

Christmas shopping is set to get underway in earnest next week as Black Friday hits on November 27, followed by Cyber Monday - but will either of them overshadow the Christmas Fayre in Bury St Edmunds?

Black Friday

Black Friday - Credit: Archant

What is Black Friday?

Black Friday is an American trend that peaked in the UK last year as shoppers battled over wide-screen TVs and other cut-price electronics.

It falls the day after Thanksgiving and, in America at least, signifies the start of the Christmas season.

Big name retailers offer heavily-publicised discounts on high ticket items to draw people into their stores - deals known as doorbusters. And offers are also targeted at online shoppers - with many already detailing their offers to lure shoppers to their sites.

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Last year websites crashed under the weight of traffic, and stores struggled to contain the crowds. The fact it coincided with pay day, or came shortly afterwards, for many meant it was even more successful than retailers could have hoped for with an estimated £810million spent in the UK on that one day.

This was the first time sales had eclipsed those of Cyber Monday.

This year, some big retailers including Asda, have ruled out partaking in Black Friday.

Shoppers queueing for Black Friday at Asda in Ipswich

Shoppers queueing for Black Friday at Asda in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

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What can I expect in Suffolk and Essex?

“Black Friday is certainly forming a more substantial part of the trading period,” said Peter Scopes, centre manager at The Lion Walk, in Colchester.

“This year it falls the same weekend as our Christmas lights switch on, which is on Sunday, November 29.

Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley last year. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire

Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley last year. Photo: David Parry/PA Wire - Credit: PA

“Individual retailers are opening later and they have discounts that have not been made public yet, and some are doing them over a couple of days.”

He is predicting a busy weekend for the stores within the centre and the town as a whole but added: “At the end of the day, people are going to spend as much as they are going to spend over the Christmas period.“We have always found that different sectors of the public are shopping at different times, my mum still gets most of hers done by September whereas myself and quite a few others I know will be rushing around in the last week when the lights are on and the music is going.

“It has always been a case of different strokes for different folks and Black Friday has simply added a new dimension to that.”

In Bury St Edmunds, Black Friday coincides with the ever popular Christmas Fayre, which runs from Thursday to Sunday next week. Mark Cordell, of ourburystedmunds, said: “Black Friday is not something that is heavily pushed in Bury, locals would probably not choose to come into town on the Friday of the Christmas Fayre because of the huge crowds, although they may use it as an opportunity to go online and order.

“The Christmas Fayre is the main attraction that weekend and we are expecting an additional 25,000 people in town.”

He explained that although independents are unlikely to offer ‘doorbusters’, several of the major retailers within Bury St Edmunds will be partaking - including Argos, Debenhams and Next.

“Locals may go online to buy from these chain stores, because it will be so busy in town, then they can use the ‘click and collect’ option and pick up their items when it is not so busy.

“We are finding more and more people are using click and collect, because they don’t want to wait in for the delivery and people don’t want expensive items left on their doorsteps.

“It is a positive for us as it is encouraging people to come into our town centre.”

Mr Cordell reminded shoppers that they are having an ice rink set up over the Christmas period.

“It is very much a family atmosphere in Bury this Christmas, because we know if the children are happy, the parents will stay longer.”

With the Christmas fayre, the rise in click and collect footfall and the ice rink, he is predicting a bigger and better Christmas period than ever before - despite the draw of online shopping.

“People now do about 15% of their spending online,” said Mr Cordell. “And that may soon reach 20% but that big jump has already happened and the high street has adapted, now it is embracing online and our traders all have websites so they can compete on that level too.”

Paul Clement, of Ipswich Central, added: “We are optimistic and positive about the way the town is shaping up for the Christmas trading period, we have a stronger line up of retailers than we had a year ago and there has been a fundamental change in the way people shop online.

“Far more people are now realising that even though they browse or buy products online, they prefer to click and collect from stores.”

He said that typicaly customers spend 60% more when they visit the store, buying accessories to go with their main purchase or other items that they pass, meaning stores benefit two fold from offering a click and collect service.

And then comes Cyber Monday

Again, this originates from America and is the first official work day after Thanksgiving. And instead of throwing themselves back into work, people instead log on to their favourite stores and simply continue their spending from the comfort of their office.

Cyber Monday this year falls on November 30 - the last day of the month so most workers will have been paid and will have additional funds to spend on their Christmas gifts.

Both here and stateside, there is expected to be a huge surge in online shopping, with experts from Experian-IMRG predict we could have a spend in the region of £943m on Cyber Monday and Black Friday could be our first £1billion shopping day ever with £1.07bn of spending predicted.

The question this year is whether mobile traffic will outstrip that of traditional desktops as more and more ecommerce sites are optimised for phones.

High Street shopping

Next Thursday, the Ipswich Star and EADT will be publishing a special Black Friday supplement, giving details of Christmas offerings from our local traders here in Suffolk and north Essex.

Online shopping

If you are ordering online remember to leave plenty of times to have your parcels delivered, especially as postal services can be delayed over this busy time.

The last posting date for delivery before Christmas is Saturday, December 19 for second class and Monday, December 21 for first class mail, but order ahead of these dates as it make a day or two for retailers to dispatch your items.

Debenhams state orders must be made by midnight on Wednesday, December 18 for delivery before December 25, unless you are paying for their express next day delivery.

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