Asda blames customer ‘fatigue’ as it ditches Black Friday offers

Previous Black Fridays in Asda stores have sparked scenes of chaos. Picture: PA
Previous Black Fridays in Asda stores have sparked scenes of chaos. Picture: PA
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ONE of Britain’s leading retailers will play no part in the annual Black Friday discount day, claiming consumers are “fatigued” by big, one-off sales.

The supermarket chain Asda said its customers had said “loud and clear” they don’t want to be “held hostage” to the so-called flash sales, which see heavy discounting on a range of electrical and household items.

Instead, the company has promised to introduce savings worth tens of millions of pounds across the duration of the seasonal period.

The firm’s decision represents the first retrenchment among British retailers since the US tradition was introduced to this country two years ago.

However, retail experts suggested Black Friday – due to take place later this month – is a phenomenon that is here to stay, and said Asda’s policy was one of damage limitation following controversial scenes last year which saw customers coming to blows in its stores over cheap goods.

Hundreds of shoppers queued in the dark of winter for more than seven hours outside Asda in Musselburgh in a bid to snap up massive bargains.

But chaos was sparked when the supermarket ran out of big-screen TVs within 20 minutes of opening its doors and police were forced to quell unruly crowds.

And shoppers at The Jewel claimed the retail park’s Asda was emptied of 40-inch televisions on sale for £139 within 20 minutes as deal-hungry customers poured into the store at 8am.

The firm’s parent company, Walmart, helped popularise the promotional day in the US, but Asda’s chief executive, Andy Clarke, said the company was embarking on a different strategy for this year’s event, which falls on November 27.

He explained: “The decision to step away from Black Friday is not about the event.

“Over the last two years we’ve developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don’t want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales.”

According to Leigh Sparks, professor of retail studies at the University of Stirling, the decision to step away from Black Friday was made in part to avoid similar bad public relations.

“Clearly with the events during last year’s Black Friday sale, the company was wary about a repeat,” he said.

“The hype surrounding the day really generates expectations and it got out of hand, which is not good for the reputation of any brand, so they are protecting against that.

“There’s a reasonable amount of evidence Black Friday didn’t do a lot for revenues last year.

“Margins were very low and with the cost of extra staff and security, it damaged existing business, so I think this is also a commercial decision.”

Other major retailers look set to go ahead with their Black Friday sales.

Paula Nickolds, commercial director of John Lewis, said his year’s event will be “bigger than ever”. Tesco said its stores have been individually assessed to ensure there are enough security staff.