Belfast Telegraph

Argos gears up for record Black Friday despite post-Brexit vote price pressures

Argos has become the latest retailer to warn over pressure to raise prices as it gears up for a record Black Friday amid fears it will be the last hurrah for shoppers before higher inflation sets in.

The chain's new boss John Rogers said he "can't rule out price increases" as the group faces the prospect of surging costs from the plunging pound "in the coming weeks and months".

But he said Argos - bought by Sainsbury's for £1.4 billion in September - would use its new buying might as part of the supermarket giant to shield consumers from price hikes where possible.

He told the Press Association: "I feel really confident that we can have the right conversations with our suppliers and negotiate on behalf of our customers to get the best deal."

There are worries that 2017 will be a painful year for consumers after a raft of retailers including high street bellwether Next warned over price increases following the pound's slump since the Brexit vote.

Mothercare also revealed on Thursday it expects to raise prices by between 3% and 5% from the middle of next year, with baby clothes and footwear set to bear the brunt.

Mark Newton-Jones, chief executive of Mothercare, said most other retailers would have to lift prices from January or February, adding consumers would "spend readily" this festive season and "buy now while they can get it at a lower price".

Argos is preparing for what has become its biggest sales day of the year, with Black Friday last year seeing around 12 million visitors to its website, making 18 purchases a second.

It kicked off 13 days of deals last week and to brace for Black Friday itself, it has invested £10 million on boosting its Fast Track delivery service, while its 11 distribution centres will have 6,100 warehouse workers and 1,000 delivery drivers, supported by 3,000 Fast Track drivers based at local stores.

Hundreds of head office workers will also help out on the shop floor.

Mr Rogers - previously finance director at Sainsbury's before taking the top spot at Argos - said the group had tested its systems 14 times to ensure they can cope with the expected level of Black Friday trade.

In response to concerns raised by consumer group Which? that not all Black Friday deals are what they seem, Mr Rogers said Argos customers can be confident they are "real deals".

He said Argos was guaranteeing Black Friday deals would be the best prices seen in the last three months at least.

Best-sellers so far have been televisions, tablets and wearable technology, he added.