UK shoppers braced for Black Friday frenzy

Christmas crush: Shops are preparing for 24 hours of consumer chaos © PA

Experts predict that £6,000 will be spent every second today, as shoppers head to the high street — and online — in search of dramatic discounts. But who are the real winners on Black Friday?

This morning, at one minute past midnight, the Christmas shopping season officially begun. Night owls stayed up to snap some online deals, and as daylight broke, stampeding shoppers headed to the high streets for tempting discounts on thousands of products. It has become known as Black Friday, and this year more UK shops than ever before have opened their doors to the bargain hunters, as customers prepare to open, and empty, their wallets.

Black Friday arrived in the UK from the US in 2010, when the online retailer Amazon first introduced the 24-hour period of mega discounts. But this year the phenomenon has engulfed the whole sector. Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer are among those looking for a slice of the mega-profits. One credit card company predicts that UK shoppers will be spending £6,000 every second.

The number of shoppers on UK high streets and in shopping centres is expected to leap by nearly 10% today and even more over the weekend. Tesco says it expects Black Friday to beat Boxing Day sales, as it prepares discounts of as much as 70% and brings in extra staff.

Retailers profit by selling goods at reduced prices but in greater volume. By lengthening the shopping season many also hope that customers will forget they have already splurged in November and hit the shops again in December.

Yet some experts say it’s a game of chicken between the retailer and customer. With mega sales becoming ever more popular, customers buy less during the rest of the year and wait, in the knowledge that shops will eventually slash prices for fear of losing out to a competitor.

And there is a backlash to Black Friday. In the past, people have been seriously injured and even killed in shop stampedes, and a protest movement, ‘Buy Nothing Day’, has sprung up in 65 countries in response to the rampant greed on display. In the US, thousands of African-Americans are urging a boycott of Black Friday as a way of expressing their fury over the shooting of the black teenager Michael Brown.

Shop 'til you drop?

Whatever happened to the true meaning of Christmas, some ask? Not only does Black Friday reveal society at its most shallow, but consumers rarely save money or make rational purchases. This is, in the words of one economist, nothing more than a depressing ‘nationwide experiment in consumer irrationality’.

Others say the frenzied Christmas shopping period is vital for boosting the economy, and a good indicator of how healthy it is. Shoppers are the main winners on Black Friday anyway, as they grab a good deal while retailers lose out as a result of reduced profit margins. There’s nothing wrong with being a savvy shopper.

You Decide

  1. Is it a good or bad thing that more UK shops are adopting this US tradition?
  2. Does Christmas bring out the worst in people or the best?

Activities

  1. Write a humorous guide containing advice on how to survive the Christmas shopping season.
  2. Maths challenges: 1. If shoppers spend £6,000 every second in the UK, how much will they spend in three hours? What about the entire day? 2. If a television set costing £739.00 goes on sale with a 70% discount, what is its new value?

Some People Say...

“The things you own end up owning you.’Fight Club”

What do you think?

Q & A

All this talk of Christmas is exciting.
High streets lit up with Christmas lights, festive tunes, exchanging gifts — what’s not to like? But is it really money that makes Christmas magical? As the hordes head to the shops, perhaps it’s a good time to reflect on what’s really important to us at Christmas, and to spare a thought for those around the world for whom Christmas won’t be a happy time.
The shops can’t fool me.
Are you sure? Retailers try to manipulate you by the songs they play, where they place products and even how the shop smells - all to get you to spend more money than you intended. Retailers also prey on shoppers’ lack of basic maths to make you think you are snapping up a deal. Keep your wits about you and be careful not to fall into the traps set by cunning retailers.

Word Watch

Black Friday
Some say Black Friday takes its name from retailers’ accounts, which go from being in the red (in debit) into the black (in credit), thanks to the spending spree. Others say it was coined by law enforcement officials in the US, wary of the chaos the day brings.
Seriously injured
Four people have died and 56 injured in Black Friday incidents since 2006. One shopper in the US used pepper spray on her fellow customers to reach the discounted goods first.
Boycott
Those calling for the boycott intend to use it to express their fury at the decision this week not to put on trial a white policeman who shot dead an unarmed black teenager. African Americans have $1 trillion in buying power. They spend more on media, watch more television, shop more frequently off and online and spend more on beauty products than any other ethnic group in the country.

Subjects

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