Black Friday sales have long been a staple in the US, but the idea of slashing prices on the last Friday in November is a relatively new concept in the UK.
The idea of Black Friday first appeared in the 1960s, and has been attributed to the chaotic shopping scenes the day after Thanksgiving. As an opportunity for Americans to get great bargains in time for Christmas, it later became an opportunity for UK stores to lower their prices in time for the festive period.
Amazon began establishing Black Friday deals as early as 2010, but the Black Friday craze didn’t fully begin in the UK until around 2014 when Argos, Asda, John Lewis, Tesco, Very and more all offered huge sales in late November. Since then, UK retailers have embraced the American tradition of Black Friday over recent years.
But before online sales and the sheer number of businesses we know today, sales looked a lot different, with midnight queues and crowds clamoring around the shopping aisles for the latest deals. On November 28, 2014, a sudden increase in deals led to widespread chaos across Britain and in true American fashion, shoppers lined up on Black Friday until midnight so they could get the hottest deals right away.
Like other areas, Greater Manchester has seen a shift in sales and police have been called to a few supermarkets after a number of reported incidents. At the time, MEN reported how fights broke out when desperate gamblers stormed the supermarket chain’s outlets in the middle of the night to get deals.
Officers have been deployed at Tesco in Irlam, Stretford, Wigan, Felsworth, Middleton, Hattersley, Burnage and Walkden due to concerns about people’s safety. Shoppers at the time described scenes of “chaos,” leaving one person saying “it was something they would never want to experience again.”
They claimed: “People were crowding around the plates where the selling items were. It was hotter one minute, and the next thing, about ten to midnight, the voices got louder. The screams ran through the roof, and then everything loosened up.”
“They were ripping the plastic off the plates and people started fighting. One girl, who couldn’t have been more than 16, picked up some advent calendars and threw them across the store.”
At the time, a GMP spokesperson said: ‘Tesco Extra in Stretford was closed after fights broke out between shoppers trying to get their hands on stock being sold. A woman suffered minor injuries after being hit by a falling TV and an ambulance was called. The store closed at 12.36am half an hour after the start of the sales event.
Crowds of 500 gathered at Tescos in Walkden and Failsworth, prompting employees to call police to the scene. a A GMP spokesperson added: “Shortly after 1.05am on Friday 28 November, police were called to a Tesco on Woodrow Way, Salford (Irlam). A man has been arrested on suspicion of assault after staff challenged his conduct in the shop. He was threatened with “Smashing” an employee’s face.
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“At 12.40am on Thursday, officers were called to a Tesco Extra on Barton Road, Middleton, after reports that around 200 people were not going to leave, despite being told the stock had all gone. The doors were locked but they refused to leave. They did not. No one is arrested. Made.
“Shortly after 12.05am on Friday, police called a Tesco Extra on Stockport Road, Hattersley, after reports of a fight in the store. There were approximately 300 people in the store and staff were advised to close it. A man has been arrested for the offence. pertaining to public order.”
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A Tesco spokesperson said: “For customer safety, some of our Greater Manchester stores called the police last night to help control crowds safely. We are extremely grateful to Greater Manchester Police for their support and stores are now trading normally.
“We always receive guidance from police authorities on security measures in stores and will work closely with Greater Manchester Police to make improvements for this type of event.” The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester, Sir Peter Fahey, later criticized the “appalling” behavior of customers and criticized the shop chiefs for not having enough security to deal with the “entirely expected” problem.
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After these incidents, two men were convicted. One admitted to using threatening, abusive, or insulting words or behavior with intent to cause fear of violence, and another pleaded guilty to one count of assault and one count of using threatening and abusive words or behavior.
After the chaos of Black Friday 2014, some retailers began to discontinue their promotions or significantly modify their promotions. Black Friday sales in the UK have changed a lot since then – with more online retailers getting involved and offering deals in the days leading up to the last Friday in November.
It was arguably fully adopted by our American cousins, with most consumers treating it like no other annual tradition.
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