This year, thanks to the greater promotion from retailers, Black Friday seems to have taken hold in earnest in the UK. 

The scenes from 24 hour Tesco and Sainsbury's stores suggest that retailers didn't realise Black Friday was going to be so popular, and the websites of some big names have also struggled to cope. 

We've seen plenty of this before on Boxing Day sales, but it's a surprise to see so many of the big retailers' sites struggle to cope. 


Retailers selling electrical goods were the worst hit, with the Currys site having a queuing system since last night: 

Queuing is undoubtedly annoying, but at least there's the prospect of finally being able to access the site. It took 30 minutes or more for me, but it did eventually work. 


Tesco had a diferent solution, keeping customers in a holding pattern and attempting to reload the page every 30 seconds. 

It's hard to think of a more annoying solution, as customers simply have no idea when or if the site would work for them. After 15 minutes I saw no movement. 

John Lewis

No queues or holding patterns from John Lewis, just a simple message which also provided some alternative contact options. 


It was surprising to see the Argos site fall over. It offers alternatives like reserve and collect for customers with the catalogue number, as well as contact details. 

It also points people to its Twitter page for updates. 

Of the four sites mentioned here, John Lewis has recovered (at the time of writing) but the rest are still struggling. 

As David Moth wrote earlier this week, there has been a sense that interest in Black Friday has reached a tipping point

He also wrote this: 

Let’s just hope we don’t start to see that shameful display of people queuing in the street from midnight to secure the best deals.

No such luck. 

Graham Charlton

Published 28 November, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

2566 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (16)

Save or Cancel

grant reid, marketing director at Rosetta Stone

could all this be a marketing ploy - exclusivity, don't miss out? surely they must have predicted the volume

over 3 years ago


Matt Peskett, Digital Marketing Consultant at Firetop Limited

I clicked a checkout button on Argos and then got shown the 'sorry' message - bought the stuff elsewhere... if it's a ploy then it's costing them sales revenue.

over 3 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Grant - I'm not so sure, Black Friday seems to have taken off in a way it never has before in the UK. I could be wrong, but I think they were genuinely surprised by the demand.

over 3 years ago

Jim Banks

Jim Banks, CEO at Spades Media

Sites should ALWAYS expect the unexpected. The mere fact they had Black Friday pages tells me they were aware of this happening.

I'm with grant, I think this is a marketing ploy and "false scarcity". I sat in the queue for Currys at around midnight last night. I had no intention of buying anything, I was just curious to see how UK retailers were jumping on the Thanksgiving bandwagon.

I then decided to go to PC World and there was the same products at the same price without the wait.

Christmas is less than a month away, then it's Boxing Day sales and then January sales, so be warned and be ready.

over 3 years ago


Stephen Sutcliffe, eCommerce Content Manager at Ted Baker

Sorry, I can't agree with the conspiracy theorists.

Pretending that your site has crashed during peak trade would be a ridiculous marketing ploy.

over 3 years ago

Craig R Morton

Craig R Morton, Senior PHP Analyst/Programmer at Reiss

Game was another retailer with a non-responsive site this morning, although they weren't as prepared as the other retailers in this article.

I'm not sure having a "queue" to access a website is a great idea though.

over 3 years ago


Lauren Barham, CET at Brand Recruitment

Hi Graham, I agree that particularly this year, I think Black Friday has taken off to a whole new level, but as mentioned retailers should have predicted this was at least a possibility because a website being down is a very frustrating, deterring thing for consumers and costs retailers more potential sales. It is also encouraging people to resort to buying from competitors which is of course not the retailers aim, but if the competitors site is up and running the choice is clear. I feel the boom of Black Friday in the UK is a good opportunity for consumers to make the most of the retail sales before Christmas, which then of course reappear after Christmas on Boxing Day/January sales. Kind regards, Lauren

over 3 years ago


Lisa Malin, Marketing Manager at Green Room Retail

I experienced difficulties with the Dorothy Perkins site which appeared to be struggling from the sheer volume of traffic. There were also anecdotal mentions on Twitter about users seeing others accounts and it also affecting other Arcadia group sites...not sure they were expecting the demand.

Scarcity breeds panic, and that's all this 'event' has's great if brands and retailers can meet demand and expectations, but seems to have frustrated a lot of bargain hunters.

Will be interesting to see the fall out and the learnings from today, and this 'cyber' shopping weekend.

over 3 years ago

Sarah Jones

Sarah Jones, Online Marketing Executive at Postcode Anywhere

Whilst they obviously prepared for the event it seems like the actual traffic levels for Black Friday have far exceeded expectations. We're certainly noticing a huge increase in traffic from last year. You can keep up with Live traffic stats on the Big Data Labs website:

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

Our customers are seeing 3x normal page views, so site loads are certainly high, about the same as last year. I'll blog with more detail in about a week..

over 3 years ago


Alex McConnell, Marketing Executive at Intechnica

I can assure you that this is not a "marketing ploy" - it's all very well saying retailers should have predicted this amount of traffic, and while that's true, that still doesn't make it straightforward to prepare.

I thought this was an interesting article in examining the user experience visitors get when sites are busy. Queuing might not be ideal but it's better than the site going down altogether (like John Lewis or Game), especially if visitors are kept informed of their position etc.

We've helped a few retailers with this today - here's our round up of who went down...

over 3 years ago

Natalie Sutton

Natalie Sutton, Director at Intershop Communications AG

Black Friday has served as a very timely reminder ahead of this important seasonal period in retail, about having IT platforms that can perform under the heaviest of peak loads. And that’s not just about choosing the right platform in the first place – one that’s engineered from the ground up to do just that - it’s also about regularly testing it to ensure there are no hidden issues.

For some retailers there will be not only platform issues, but potential hazards through their supply chain; hosting partners capable of scaling quickly, and systems integrators able to guarantee optimum web site performance for example.

No doubt, Black Friday will have caused some retailers to question the strategy behind their e-commerce operation. Many of them have large, all-encompassing, expensive, big brand e-commerce platforms in place that just aren’t as flexible and modern as a modular ecosystem approach. And for them, an upgrade to stay current, means a complex and costly re-platforming exercise.
Matt Diss, Managing Director, Intershop UK

over 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, Founder and Author at Fresh Relevance

And how busy is "Cyber Monday"? Our customers are seeing slightly higher traffic than Black Friday.

This was unexpected, to me at least, but I don't expect the same kind of problems on the wider Internet, because there's been more time to prepare.

over 3 years ago

Visa Track

Visa Track, Manager at Visa Track

It's really beautiful work.Thanks for this kind of stuff.I mean I am totally impressed. Hope to see more updated work here. I have to say, it is very informative...

over 3 years ago


Deri Jones, CEO at SciVisum Ltd


> it’s also about regularly testing it to ensure there are no hidden issues.

Indeed. Which is exactly what my company provides retailers in the run up to Black Friday and Christmas :<)

> No doubt, Black Friday will have caused some retailers to question the strategy behind their e-commerce operation.

I'm not so sure. I'd caution against making hurried platform decisions due to one bad weekend.

You describe the use of:
> large, all-encompassing, expensive, big brand e-commerce platforms

but those platforms can be built well and scaled wisely: just as smaller e-commerce platforms can be used badly.

See another article here on eConsultancy: where someone commented that the changes made to promote the BlackFriday deals on AO impacted usability and made it pretty tricky for shoppers to actually benefit from those deals.

I prefer that old management phrase (was it Ziglar or Carnegie? )
"It's not what you've got, it's what you use"

over 3 years ago

Matthew Diss

Matthew Diss, Managing Director at Intershop Communications AG


Very good points. I totally agree that people shouldn't make hurried decisions based on one bad weekend but it should lead them to at least question whether they have the right solution in place to ensure it doesn't happen on the next spike.

over 3 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.