Shopping without the turkey: How Black Friday is coming to the UK

It’s long been a sales phenomenon is the US – Black Friday is the day immediately after Thanksgiving, and traditionally marks the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.

Most major retailers open early and cut prices in a bid to kick off seasonal sales, a bit like the Boxing Day sales in the UK.

The busiest shopping day of the year since 2005 in America, the sales now seem to be migrating to the UK with retailers getting in on the act to offer discounts to British shoppers.

Technology and electronics goods have some of the best deals – with online retailing giant Amazon, Apple and Currys all promoting sales with limited stock as an attempt to cash in on British consumer interest in the American sales frenzy.

Apple has £31 off its iPad online at the moment, down to £368, with John Lewis matching the price, but Currys has gone one better, offering it for £329. There are also big savings on the Macbook Pro, which usually retails at £999 but is on sale for £918.

Amazon also has its popular Kindle Fire e-reader on sale for £99 rather than £129 and Currys has a third off its £1500 Samsung television. At PC World, there’s an 8GB iPod Touch reduced from £149.99 to £99.99 and a Fujifilm F750 camera from £199.99 to £139.99.

The term Black Friday first originated in Philadelphia in around 1960 where locals used the term to describe the heavy, disruptive traffic the day after Thanksgiving but it started to see broader use around 1975 when an alternative explanation was offered, that it refers to retailers being in the black.

As a sales gimmick, it was first launched by Amazon in the UK and other retailers are now jumping on the bandwagon. Amazon’s Black Friday deals end on Sunday night, while Apple’s lasted for just a day and Currys is promoting a 100 hour price crash.

Amazon said its Black Friday Deals Week had “set a new benchmark in UK retail in the past two years,” with more than 1,000 deals in 2010 and 2011 including up to 80% off some products and Microsoft Xbox and Nintendo Wii consoles for £50.

Retail analysts are saying Black Friday weekend this year is especially important because of the dire state of the US economy, and many shops opened their sales on Thursday night in a bid to start the shopping frenzy early.

Sears, which didn’t open on Thanksgiving day last year, opened at 8pm this time round, while Target Corp opened at 9pm rather than midnight and, when iconic store Macy’s opened in New York at midnight, there were some 11,000 shoppers.

Experts said the early store openings were happening in a bid to bring shoppers back to make physical purchases rather than buy online. Charles O’Shea, a senior analyst at Moody’s said: “It’s a recognition that retailers need to be more aggressive and want to show their physical stores are important.” Referring to the amount shoppers have to spend this year, he added: “It’s a finite pie. If you can get a bit more by being open, then do it.”

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