It’s Black Friday - but there aren’t enough lorry drivers to deliver your presents

YORKSHIRE retailers are preparing for a shopping frenzy tomorrow, as the American Black Friday craze makes its mark on both the high street and online sales.

THE RUSH: Black Friday seeks stores packed-out with bargain hunters

But while supermarkets, department stores and even independent retailers prepare to slash prices to get their share of the shopper’s pound, experts warn that a shortage of lorry drivers could affect deliveries for Christmas.

In some areas, including Leeds, the problem is “very bad” with 94 per cent of operators saying the shortage was a real concern, the Freight Transport Association (FTA) said. Around 45,000 drivers will need to be recruited over the next few years, FTA skills policy manager Sally Gilson said.

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However, the shortage is unlikely to put off many shoppers looking for a bargain online.

Amazon, which first brought Black Friday deals to the UK in 2010, has slashed the prices of 3,000 products, and hopes to replicate the success of last year, when it sold more than 4 million items in one day.

“With a thousand more deals than last year, we expect record numbers to take advantage of Black Friday Deals Week this year,” said Christopher North, Managing Director, Amazon.co.uk Ltd. “From children’s toys and consoles to fine jewellery and wearable technology, Black Friday Deals Week now signals the start of Christmas shopping in the UK with millions of pounds to be saved on must-have gifts.”

In America, the discount shopping day falls immediately after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Leeds-based Asda claims to have been the first major retailer to introduce Black Friday to the UK last year, when it saw queues forming at stores as early as 5am and 3.8 million transactions.

This year it will also be offering discounts on Saturday, and tripled the number of products on offer, including a quad bike with £3,000 off, a 40” LED TV for £139 and £100 off a Samsung Galaxy Note. Ayaz Alam, senior director, general merchandise, Asda, said: “This year, we’ve stepped it up a gear again and by working closely with Walmart – the godfather of Black Friday – we’ll be bringing an even bigger and better sale to the UK than ever before.”

Specially trained staff will be on hand to help thousands of shoppers expected at Sheffield’s Meadowhall on Friday, where many stores are holding one-day discounts, including Apple.

Stores at the Trinity Leeds shopping centre expect to see £1m ringing through the tills tomorrow, which it predicts will be the busiest day of the year.

Marketing manager Paul Smith said: “We definitely have Black Friday as part of the retail calendar now and Trinity Leeds is certainly geared up for a busy weekend ahead.”

John Lewis, which opened its first North Yorkshire store at York’s Monks Cross in April, has prepared a two-pronged attack to attract Black Friday shoppers. It is slashing prices on hundreds of technology and electrical items, whilst matching prices its competitors offer. Last year, its online Black Friday sales broke previous records for trade on one day.

Gary Rowntree, branch manager at York said it would open at 8am for customers looking for an early deal, with extra staff to cope with demand. He added: “I am looking forward to what Black Friday will bring, its been an exciting year opening York and this will be able to show what we are capable of.”

RETAIL jobs are being created at the fastest pace in more than a decade, as new figures showed resilient trading in the run-up to Christmas.

A report from the CBI found a greater percentage of retailers said they would take on extra staff in the year to December rather than not, giving a balance of plus 16 per cent, the highest since May 2002. It also found sales volumes were resilient, at plus 27 per cent.

Survey chairman Barry Williams said shopkeepers haven’t been “pulling their punches” when it came to getting shoppers through the doors, despite a demanding year.