U.S.-style Black Friday has hit British shores with an unprecedented force, even resulting today in a few arrests and a shopper’s broken wrist.
Tens of thousands of shoppers flocked to the malls and the main streets across the country to bag a bargain on a day that has become increasingly popular there in recent years. The big rush apparently caught many of the stores off guard, so, unsurprisingly, the resulting chaos this morning included some stampeding shoppers climbing over each other to get their hands on items, as well as occasional violence.
Police in the north of the U.K. were reportedly called to a Tesco store to restore calm, tweeting, "at least two people arrested at #BlackFriday sales events already this morning. Keep calm people!’’
Giant retailer Tesco said only a "small number" of stores were affected, according to the BBC.
But Sir Peter Fahy, the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, said in a statement, "The events of last night were totally predictable and I am disappointed that stores did not have sufficient security staff on duty,’’ adding, "This created situations where we had to deal with crushing, disorder and disputes between customers.
Almost 200 shoppers refused to leave one store even though they were warned that all their stock had been sold, according to the BBC. Fights erupted with one man threatening to “smash a staff members face in," police said.
A shopper described to the BBC how Black Friday frenzy began Thursday night at one store: "I looked at the massive crowd to see people climbing over shelves and displays, staff running for cover, fights breaking out, stock flying through air, people breaking through carrying televisions - and this was before the sale had even started."
Some people who did not want to venture into the chaotic stores today instead tried their luck online. But to no avail, when some of the main retailers’ websites crashed from the rush of shoppers trying to purchase goods electronically.
Retailers are banking on Black Friday being their biggest shopping day this year in the U.K., with credit card companies such as Visa hoping people will spend more than $800 million on cards alone. And they are also predicting that the spending spree will continue through the weekend and into Cyber Monday with some estimating the weekend will generate at least $2.6 billion.
As for today’s commotion, The Greater Manchester Police Department listed several incidents to which it has responded in Tesco stores there. Here is the list:
-“At 11:34 p.m. on Thursday 27th November 2014, officers were called to Tesco Central Park, Wigan after reports of several hundred people trying to enter the store. Two men were ejected before control was regained.
-Officers were also called to Tesco on Ashton Road West at 11:40 p.m. yesterday, after more than 500 people attended the store.
-The Tesco store at Ellesmere Shopping Centre in Walkden was closed down after a crowd of more than 500 people attended. Shoppers were asked to leave.
-The Tesco Extra in Stretford was closed after fights broke out between shoppers trying to get their hands on sale stock. A woman suffered minor injuries after being hit by a falling television and an ambulance was called. The store was closed at 12:36 a.m., just over half an hour after the sales event started.
-Shortly after 1:05 a.m. on Friday 28th November 2014, police were called to Tesco on Woodrow Way, Salford. One man was arrested on suspicion of assault after his conduct in store was challenged by staff. He threatened to “smash” a staff member’s face in.
-At 12:40 a.m. on Thursday, officers were called to Tesco Extra on Barton Road, Middleton, following reports that around 200 people would not leave, despite being told stock had all gone. Doors had been locked but they refused to leave. No arrests were made.
-Shortly after 12:05 am on Friday, police called to Tesco Extra on Stockport Road, Hattersley, following reports of fighting in store. Approximately 300 people were present in store and staff were advised to close. One man was arrested for a public order offense.”