Hair-pulling, shoving and shouting – no, not a typical school playground, but the scene according to shoppers as hundreds of bargain hunters descended on a Blackpool superstore for a bumper sales day.
Customers spoke of “chaos” at the Asda store in Marton, as shoppers queued from 6am for discounted televisions, blu ray players, tablets and smartphones yesterday.
The event, called Black Friday, was held at more than 350 Asda stores across the UK, as the chain mirrored its parent company Walmart, based in America, with the sales extravaganza.
Sian Dawson, of Threllfall Road, Marton, said the store was “bedlam” as customers fought to grab a bargain.
The 18-year-old, who was shopping with Caroline Simmonds and her son Craig, added: “We saw one guy pushing and shoving people out of the way, while one woman screamed as she had her hair pulled.
“I heard some people were queueing from 6am. We got here around 7.30am. Once the store opened the sale at 8am, everyone rushed in – it was chaos, bedlam.
“Everyone was desperate to get the electrical equipment – I was fighting someone for a television, which was normally £300 but on sale for £100, while we managed to get a play kitchen for £35, which is normally £100 – it was crazy really.”
Fellow shopper Carla Wood, of Cypress Point, Lytham, picked up a play kitchen and a tablet, which was reduced from £120 to £50.
The 31-year-old added: “I came down around 9am after the sale had opened and found the kitchen in one of the food aisles.
“It seemed like someone had left it there. I thought I had to get it before someone else does! After I put it in my trolley people started coming up to me asking where I had got it from, it was probably the last in the store – it just showed how keen everyone was for a bargain.”
Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year in America and is traditionally associated with the first Friday after Thanksgiving in the US. It is a day when stores across the Atlantic mark the official start of the festive shopping period with a day of huge discounts.
And in recent years, UK stores have followed suit.
According to the National Retail Federation, 247 million US shoppers spent $59.1 billion last year, with 1.3 million televisions, 1.3 million dolls and 250,000 bicycles sold.
At the Asda Fleetwood store, shoppers descended on the branch from 8am, determined to snap up bargain offers.
Best friends Sarah Beswick, 28, and Emma Clarke, 30, who both live on Eden Avenue, West View, dashed to the store after finishing the school run.
Emma said: “I heard about the offers on Facebook and Sarah already knew about it.
“We’ve made some really big savings this morning.”
Sarah bought an LG flat screen TV as a present for a relative, paying £259 instead of £400.
Emma forked out just £54 on LG surround sound TV speakers, when normally it would retail at £150. She said: “I think Black Friday’s a good idea and it will catch on. By the time we arrived a lot of the stuff, like the bikes, had already gone.”
A spokesman for Asda said: “This is the first time Black Friday has been done on this scale in stores across the UK and our customers were eager to take advantage of the great offers available. We planned for high demand and the half a million Black Friday products on offer to our customers have been selling quickly since 8am. Throughout the event the safety of our customers is of vital importance and to ensure our stores can cope with the we have full security teams in our stores and extra colleagues to help assist customers in the aisles.”
Black Friday ‘behind four deaths’
In the US, where the phenomenon of Black Friday began, sales started in earnest yesterday, the first Friday after Thanksgiving.
But the mass sales there – which are on a much bigger scale than those in the UK and see prices slashed by up to 70 per cent – do have a darker side.
The start of mass discounting yesterday saw sales punctuated with outbreaks of violence.
In the past there have been stampedes and shootings, resulting in four deaths and 56 injuries in the past five years.
In 2008, a Walmart employee was fatally injured in a stampede at a store in New York City.
Yet the passion in the US for Black Friday continues unabated.
The marketing push from the big firms is monumental – many start a concerted marketingcampaign several weeks in advance.