Fevered Shoppers Plunge UK Black Friday Sale into Disorder

Fevered Shoppers Plunge UK Black Friday Sale into Disorder

(Photo Credits: Flickr, Moyan Brenn)

Waiting impatiently by the doors that were guarded by store staffs for the opening hour to come; pushing their ways through the narrow gates and charging in and brawling with other shoppers over microwave ovens; some even lying flat on top of a TV box to prevent others from towing it away. This is not a scene from some sort of disaster films. This violent craze common among angry football fans after a disappointing match was widely seen in major retailer stores across the UK on November 28, the day also known as Black Friday. UK retailer giants, including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA and John Lewis, all fell victims to the disarray.

Black Friday, a term coined by an American police officer in Philadelphia in 1961 as a result of shoppers and American football fans flocking to the streets on the day after Thanksgiving and creating chaos, proclaimed its very victory in sweeping the UK market for the first time and the success in exposing consumers’ most savage nature that substantially damages the image perceived of this country, which is famous for its long-established fine etiquette and gentlemen culture.

In fact, few stores follow suit their American counterparts to kick off the Black Friday sale at midnight. But whoever decided to do so witnessed and withstood the first wave of consumers’ charge very shortly, especially Tesco. A Tesco store in Glasgow, Scotland was shut down by police due to jostling among consumers over the sales some 20 minutes after its opening at midnight Friday. And in Lea Valley, London, it only took 26 minutes before seven police cars and two ambulances were called to wait outside a local Tesco store after tussles broke out.

21-year-old Shaun Thompson, who queued outside Tesco Stretford store for Dre Beats headphones, cited by The Telegraph, told the Manchester Evening News: “It was getting more heated by the minute and the next thing, at about ten to midnight, voices got raised. The shouting went through the roof, then all hell broke loose. They were ripping the plastic off the palettes and people started fighting.” He said he would never want to experience such thing again.

At least a handful of people across the UK were put under arrest for vicious assault. Ian Hopkins, Greater Manchester Police Deputy Chief, denounced the hysterical shopping behaviour in an interview with Independent Television News by saying: “People’s behaviour was terrible and everybody in those stores should be asking themselves questions that what was I doing, why was I behaving like that.” He also expressed his disappointment in the retailers’ failure to predict the scale of crowds and to set up appropriate security precautions.

Not only physical stores were crammed with customers, online retailers also found themselves paralysed by the heavy traffic on the day. Websites of John Lewis, Argos, Tesco Direct and Currys, were all crashed by the surging customer visits in the early Friday morning. Some companies limited the number of visitors by placing additional customers in waiting lists, but the waiting time ranged from a few minutes to a total disconnection.

But to some online retailers, the shopping revelry helped them to manifold their sales dramatically. Eight sales were completed in a second by Dixon Carphone, a leading online digital product retailer, whose web traffic is said to be as much as five times compared to last year. And Amazon UK processed orders for over 5.5 million items, which means on average 64 goods were sold per second. “The public’s appetite for Black Friday has been bigger than ever,” said Xavier Garambois, Vice-President of EU Retail at Amazon, to BBC.

Despite all these record-setting online sale figures, they are nowhere near the sales made during the phenomenal Chinese online shopping fiesta, Double Eleven Day, on November 11. The leading E-commerce company, Alibaba, generated revenue of 57.1 billion yuan (approximately 5.71 billion pounds sterling or 9.3 billion US dollars) and processed 278 million orders in a single day, outnumbering all sales made on Black Friday in the UK and the US, combined.

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