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Police called to stores and shoppers queue to buy online as Black Friday rush emerges

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Reports of crashing websites and police being called to supermarkets swamped by Black Friday demand are hitting the headlines in what’s predicted to be a record online weekend.

The latest prediction, from Sage Pay, suggests £1.5bn will be spent online this weekend. But it seems that in some areas the response from customers has been overwhelming.

The BBC reports police were called to seven Tesco supermarkets around the UK, also showed pictures of scenes of chaos at Asda branches in Northern Ireland.

Net a Porter , John Lewis , and Argos are among those sites reported to have gone down in recent days. When we visited to check, around lunchtime on Black Friday, Currys was holding shoppers in a queue, while Argos and Tesco Direct also both asked shoppers to wait to enter.

Mike Herbert of personalised gifting website, said it was now apparent that the Black Friday and Cyber Monday activity were extending across the weekend.

“The fact that websites are crashing left, right and centre make it clear that cyber activity is not in fact restricted to Monday,” he said. “Whenever the deals are there, so are the shoppers – regardless of the day! For those running offers over the promotional period, it’s going to be manic all weekend.”

Bob Dowson, director of NCC Group’s website performance division, said of Net a Porter’s reported website crash: “Any downtime will be extremely costly and other retailers intending to offer flash sales should make sure they test their websites first to ensure they are able to cope with extra traffic.”

Asif Khetani, director of ecommerce at BT Expedite, said: “Days with huge sales spikes have been fraught with issues for retailers who have been caught unawares. Customers don’t just want great deals, they want great experiences. And in today’s ultra-competitive environment, they need great experiences to keep them coming back, as problems like these can cause serious damage to brands.”

The hold-ups came as what’s expected to be one of the busiest shopping weekends of the year saw what’s expected to be unprecedented levels of demand. Sage Pay said it expected £1.5bn to be spent online over the course of the weekend, with £600m of that spent on Cyber Monday alone. While both Black Friday, which falls on the day after Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, the first Monday of December are peak shopping days in the run up to Christmas, their effect was expected to be amplified this year as they fall in the same weekend. At the same time, traders have been more confident about spending this Christmas as a result of the improving economy.

According to Sage Pay’s forecast, the busiest time still lies ahead. It predicts noon on Cyber Monday will be the busiest point of the busiest day. Across the day, it says, visitors will pay a collective 125m visits to websites.

“This expenditure growth is a direct result of increased UK consumer confidence in spending,” said Simon Black, chief executive of Sage Pay. “As the UK’s economy begins a period of upturn after suffering during the 2008 recession, we believe that this confidence will continue into the Christmas period. It also directly correlates with the diversification in new online payment methods we’ve seen this year.”

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