As retailers prepare for a bounce in business around the Black Friday weekend, an organisation representing them has warned the spending spree is having a distortive effect on the trade.

Retail Ireland said the benefits are now being openly questioned by retailers and even viewed with dread by some.

Black Friday began as a traditional post-Thanksgiving spending splurge in the US, marking the start of the Christmas shopping season.

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But now it, and its online equivalent Cyber Monday, have swept across the world, becoming a week long retail event on a par with Christmas.

Irish retailers have been gearing up to entice consumers in with a range of offers and bargains, although consumer groups warn claims of reduced prices are not always what they seem.

Research by PwC Ireland has found that 98% of consumers are aware of the occasion, a fifth are going to shop and 56% are considering it.

However, attitudes tend to vary by age, with 61% of 18 to 34-year-olds intending to make a purchase, while 17% of over-55s plan to avoid the occasion altogether.

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Among those intending to buy, a third said they are planning to spend more than last year.

But clicks appear to be winning out over bricks, with two-thirds intending to buy over the internet.

Retail Ireland said however that while the deep discounting is certainly good news for Irish consumers, it does present a challenge for many retailers.

It said many members have seen an erosion in their competitive position in recent months as a result of growing inputs costs in areas such as labour, insurance, local authority rates and rents.

"Consumers are now expecting deep discounts of as much as 50% on a wide range of products," said Retail Ireland Director Thomas Burke.

"But retailers are increasingly reluctant to engage in such deep discounting for fear that they are merely displaying sales that would otherwise happen later in the Christmas shopping period at more normal price levels.

"This was the case in 2017 when we saw retail sales fall by 2.6% in December when compared to the previous month, a sign that a significant portion of the traditional Christmas purchases were brought forward into November as consumers availed of deep discounts."

As a result of the margin squeeze, some retailers now view the event with suspicion and an element of dread, he said.

However, the organisation said it recognises that for other retailers the promotional window will be embraced, particularly in the online space which represents the fastest growing retail channel.