Better late than never: The Bridges hopes for record Black Friday sales after quiet start

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Bargain-hungry shoppers descended on The Bridges in droves on Black Friday after an initial false start saw the centre deserted fits thing this morning.

Many shops in The Bridges opened at 8am - an hour earlier than usual, but the centre was largely empty, save for staff and people passing through.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

A handful of people were standing outside Debenham's when the shutters went up, but it was far from the rush of previous years.

However, the shopping centre saw a rush of trade by the middle of the day - despite many consumers shunning the shops in favour of online bargains.

The Bridges centre director Andy Bradley said: "We were expecting to be quite busy and the way things are looking compared to last year, today is set to be the second best day only to the Saturday before Christmas.

"We have a lot of good offers and a lot of retailers have displayed that they are taking part this year.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

"The weather has been quite stable, so that has certainly helped, and the advertising has really helped as well.

"I was in London last year and it was a bit of a damp squib, but Sunderland bucked the trend.

"We are hoping for record sales today, but we won't know for sure until next week.

"Both our car parks have got people managing the traffic, which is indicative of good footfall.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

"If people are queuing to get into the car parks, we know we are going to be very, very busy."

Nationally, shoppers are predicted to go on a £1.97 billion spending spree - setting a new record - with more than half spent on the internet.

The chaotic scenes witnessed two years ago where brawls broke out over cut-price televisions were not matched this year on the high street. Instead, just a handful of shoppers waited in line outside many superstores before calmly purchasing cut-price electrical goods.

John Rogers, chief executive of Sainsbury's Argos, said that the catalogue retailer had seen a surge in online sales during the early hours.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

"We're expecting a huge tick up in demand today. For example, the first hour of trading on our website which was between 12 and one o'clock today we saw over 500,000 visits to the website, up 50% year-on-year," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"I suspect that we'll see a real peak in trade between seven and 10 o'clock this morning when customers are on their way to work, on their mobiles and they can shop our deals as they travel into work this morning."

Almost all of the high street's biggest names are embracing the US import this year, with some such as Tesco and John Lewis offering extended opening hours.

But at the Tesco Extra store in Ponders End, Enfield, north London, a smattering of bargain hunters formed a line outside and appeared in relaxed spirits as they bought televisions, vacuum cleaners and video games. While in Manchester, just a handful of shoppers queued outside a Tesco Extra store.

Retailers will be hoping that their websites stand up to the volume of traffic after big names such as Argos, Tesco, John Lewis and Boots crashed at peak times last year.

Some 14 million British consumers are expected to participate in the global shopping event, now the biggest shopping day in the UK, and will spend a predicted total of £1.96 billion, according to VoucherCodes.co.uk and the Centre for Retail Research.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Online spending on Black Friday is expected to reach £1 billion, up 16% on last year, while it is anticipated that the majority who opt for the High Street will spend a lower total of around £961 million.

It is expected that consumers will spend £5.8 billion over the four days culminating with the so-called Cyber Monday.

But consumer group Which? has already warned shoppers to "do your research" after finding that half of last year's deals were cheaper in the months before and after Black Friday.

MoneySavingExpert.com warned customers to watch out for "fool's gold" and compare prices carefully between retailers.

Keith Richardson, managing director retail sector at Lloyds Bank Commercial Banking, said he expected Black Friday to be "as big as ever this year" as shoppers have seen "little if any impact" after the EU referendum.

But he said he doubted that customers would be "fighting over TVs again" because retailers and consumers are now "more savvy about Black Friday".

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.

Black Friday at The Bridges Sunderland.