Black Friday fever grips Edinburgh

Happy shoppers cart off their cut-price TVs from Asda at The Jewel. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Happy shoppers cart off their cut-price TVs from Asda at The Jewel. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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Hundreds of shoppers queued in the dark of winter for more than seven hours in a bid to capitalise on the globe’s biggest retail day of the year.

Black Friday chaos came to the Capital as retail giant Asda ran out of big-screen TVs within 20 minutes of opening its doors and police were forced to quell unruly crowds in Musselburgh during the sales extravaganza imported from the US that marks the launch of the Christmas shopping season.

Retail giants like Tesco, House of Fraser, Asda and John Lewis led the way by promising big savings for customers brave enough to wade through Friday’s thick crowds. And independent shops hopped on board the American tradition with offers of their own. One-off discounts included advertisements in Edinburgh Families magazine, two-for-one swimming lessons and even 20 per cent off entry into next year’s Edinburgh Marathon.

The bulk of the frenzy centred on the city’s major supermarkets, where customers had been queuing in their pyjamas from 1am on Friday to be the first in-store.

Once the doors did finally open, 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. Regular customers were griping that they couldn’t even force their way into Asda Straiton – whilst HMV on Princes Street reported throngs of customers waiting to get into the store hours before managers unlocked the doors.

Rochelle Burgess, general manager of the St James Centre, said city centre shops faced a “severe influx” of shoppers on the hunt for cheap goods.

“We had hundreds of customers queuing up at midnight outside of Game, and people were pouring in throughout the day to take advantage of a number of amazing offers,” she said.

“It’s been the best retail day of the year so far, and the thing is it’s not only supermarkets and department stores. High-end stores were doing Black Friday deals as well – you had Chanel fragrances selling for up to 30 per cent off. It was incredible.

“The whole day was a huge buzz.”

Limited quantities of sale items caused sleep-deprived customers in some stores to become frustrated to the point of aggression, however.

Police were called at 1am to ease tensions at a Tesco Extra in Musselburgh after the store’s manager feared shoppers might descend into a mob.

A police spokesman said the shoppers had become unruly when they discovered the Olive Bank Road store had more iPad boxes on display than actual products in stock.

Violent crowds of shoppers brought Tesco’s Silverburn store in Glasgow to a standstill just after midnight – causing police to clear the premises and shut it down for a short period of time.

A store in Dundee was also forced to shut early yesterday morning after a number of altercations between customers trying to grab a bargain.

Nationwide, Asda sold 8000 televisions in the first 60 minutes of trading alone. Around 10,000 tablets had gone off the shelves within two hours – and the retailer was completely sold out of Xbox 360s by 9am. The chain reported serving two million customers by 3pm.

Yet whilst some customers went home without the deals they had been hunting for, millions more capitalised on similar online savings.

Between midnight and 6am, traffic on the John Lewis website shot up 307 per cent on last year’s hugely successful Black Friday event. About 40 per cent of that traffic came from mobiles, and one of the top selling items was the Nutribullet blender. At 10am, the retailer was selling one Nutribullet every 30 seconds.

The Tesco Direct website experienced so much traffic it was forced to implement a counter system letting customers on to the site one at a time – with some complaining of waits of up to five hours.

By yesterday afternoon, crowds in Edinburgh’s city centre slowly began to dissipate – but the shoppers continued to press on.

Haddington resident Charlotte Kington, 53, even recovered money from past purchases by braving Friday’s mayhem.

“I specifically came down today because I had bought a load of items for my daughters at Urban Outfitters several days ago at full price,” she said.

“But when I realised this week was Black Friday, I returned them all and immediately repurchased everything on sale. I saved a small fortune.”

And Tranent’s Andrew Sonk, 50, said he finished his Christmas shopping in one, swift stroke as a result of Black Friday deals.

“This is the first time I’ve come out for Black Friday, and the savings are incredible,” he said. “That’s my Christmas shopping done.”

City student Fraser Lewis, 18, said he blew his entire student loan and monthly pay in Friday’s sales.

“I won’t be eating much this month, but I’ll be sorted on video games for the year,” he said. “I probably saved £300 today. I must’ve waited in the queue 20 minutes before I reached the till, but it was worth it.”

Retail frenzy

Black Friday is a retail extravaganza that originated in the US as a post-Thanksgiving tradition. The 24-hour frenzy sees retail prices plummet in a bid to encourage shoppers to get a move on with their Christmas shopping – and is thus named because it is said to be the first financial day of the year in which retailers go from trading in the red to enjoying black profits. Last year, Black Friday pulled in over £56bn worth of sales in the US.