Two years ago, almost no British people had heard of it, but this year Black Friday has become the latest American craze to cross the pond. At shops up and down the country punters fought to get their hands on discounters toasters and TVs.
Amazon was the first UK-based retailer to discount goods on the day after the American Thanksgiving holiday three years ago. Last year they were followed by ASDA, which is owned by the US retail giant Walmart.
So far there have been at least four arrests, as discounts whipped shoppers into a frenzy. The main disturbances were in South London and Manchester, where shoppers queued for hours before shops opened. When they did open the British abandoned their traditional love of politeness and queuing to join in what was much more akin to London’s new NFL team.
By the time tills close tonight shoppers are expected to have spent £200m, a welcome boost for struggling retailers. The major chains joining in this year include the UK’s largest retailer TESCO and New Look which operates 1,100 branches. The major chains have offered seemingly unbelievable deals, with prices being halved on many products.
In advance of Black Friday Ayaz Alam, Senior Directorof Asda, said: “Last year we were the first major retailer to bring Black Friday to the UK. 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.”
Despite the excitement of the retailers and shoppers, some experts sounded a note of caution over the stunt. Retail expert Dan Wagner from Powa Technologies told Sky News that the day could trigger a “battle to reduce prices more and more” until some retailers bankrupt themselves.
The Metropolitan Police have also appealed for calm after they were asked to restore order in a number of participating stores today.