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Asda scales back Black Friday sales after 2014 chaos

Asda is understood to be planning to scale back its plans for Black Friday later this month after the promotional frenzy in its stores last year failed to deliver profitable sales.

In 2014, the retailer attracted negative publicity after camera crews invited to its Wembley store filmed shoppers fighting over discounted TVs. Queues of shoppers formed outside the doors and snapped up bargains on toys and electronics but many didn’t stick around to buy groceries.

As a result, sources said the Walmart-owned supermarket – which was one of the first British retailers to embrace the US-inspired discount day at the beginning of the Christmas season – was set on a very different approach this year.

Trade journal Retail Week reported that Asda might consider online-only deals or spread offers over several days to prevent a chaotic rush of shoppers in its stores.

By mid-afternoon last Black Friday, Asda said it had rung up 2m sales since 8am, making it the busiest single trading day of the year so far. It sold more than 8,000 TVs in the first hour, and more than 10,000 tablets in the first two hours.

But one source said: “Last year big-ticket items sold at a loss and attempts to ensure safety by forcing shoppers to queue for items meant food sales tanked.”

A crowd of people fight over a giant TV
Shoppers at the Asda store in Wembley, north-west London tussling for consumer electronics on Black Friday last year. Photograph: David Parry/PA

Another source said Asda wanted to find a less costly way to handle the day. Last year the business had to draft in 2,000 extra staff, including security guards, to help manage the sale.

“It will be a totally different proposition this year,” another source said.

Asda and its fellow US-owned retailer Amazon have driven the rise of Black Friday, which has brought about a dramatic change in the way people do their Christmas shopping in the UK. The event, which falls on 27 November this year, has led to heavy discounting on electronic and electrical goods at a peak sales time when retailers traditionally raked in strong profits. Last year fashion retailers and department stores were drawn into the fray.

Police were called to a number of Tesco stores amid late night disturbances as shoppers tried to snap up bargains, while the websites of several big retailers including Currys and Marks & Spencer struggled to cope with demand.

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Consultancy Salmon has forecast that Black Friday 2015 will become the UK’s first £1bn online shopping day, but many retailers are unsure how shoppers will react to Black Friday this year. Last month Home Retail Group, the owner of Argos, warned that its profits might take a hit after it spent millions on advertising and brought in new vans to handle deliveries on the day but admitted it was unsure about the level of sales that might emerge.

John Lewis boss Andy Street predicted Black Friday sales would be 20% higher this year than in 2014. But he has also warned fellow retailers to rein in Black Friday promotions after heavy demand over the promotional weekend caused havoc on the high street in the run-up to Christmas and hit profitability.


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