Bargains and brawls: 'Black Friday' comes to Britain

Fri Nov 28, 2014 8:40am EST
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By James Davey and Liisa Tuhkanen

LONDON (Reuters) - British police officers were called to stores across the country on Friday as the "Black Friday" shopping frenzy imported from the United States brought surging crowds and fights over sharply discounted goods.

For the first time, most British retailers have fully embraced "Black Friday" promotions this year, both in store and online, seeking to follow their cousins across the Atlantic and kickstart trading early in the key Christmas period.

The day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, which falls on the fourth Thursday of November, is extravagantly promoted in the United States as the start of the Christmas shopping season. The surge in spending is said to make it the day when retailers finally show a profit for the year, or go "into the black".

With no national holiday in late November, people in Britain had no reason to notice the day until American online retailer Amazon brought its Black Friday sales across the Atlantic in 2010.

Last year marked the first time major UK store groups such as John Lewis [JLP.UL], Dixons and Wal-Mart's Asda participated in a serious way, and this year has seen the trend explode across a majority of the British retail sector.

A survey commissioned by Barclays found that 65 percent of British retailers that sell both online and in stores planned Black Friday promotions.

Supermarket leader Tesco, clothing retailer Marks & Spencer, and electrical retailers Dixons and Argos are doing far bigger promotions than before. Others, like No 3 grocer Sainsbury's are participating for the first time.

The trend is also emerging in continental Europe, with Spanish department store El Corte Ingles using the term "Black Friday", in English, to advertise price cuts and promotions appearing in France and Denmark.   Continued...

Shoppers wrestle over a television as they compete to purchase retail items on "Black Friday" at an Asda superstore in Wembley, north London November 28, 2014. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor