IT IS the day that Christmas shopping starts in earnest in the US – as shoppers on their post-Thanksgiving holiday hit main street in search of cut-price festive goods.
But now, Black Friday has been embraced by British bargain hunters, sparking fights in stores across the UK, as desperate shoppers battle to get their hands on the cheapest products discounted by retailers keen to copy their US counterparts.
In Bristol, there were reports of a scuffle at an Asda store, which led to the arrest of a 35-year-old man on the hunt for cheap giant televisions, while a woman in a Belfast supermarket ended up in hospital after a fight broke out in store.
Meanwhile, retail experts warned that the phenomenon of “Cyber Monday” could be eclipsed by “Sofa Sunday” for the first time this year, as more people take advantage of “one-click” shopping on tablets and mobile devices to start their Christmas shopping from the comfort of their own home.
Major retailers have said they expect tomorrow to be the biggest online shopping day as more people opt to do their internet shopping at home rather than from their desks at work on Monday morning.
Previously, Cyber Monday saw retailers gear up for the first Monday in December. But the rise of easy ways of shopping online at home, coupled with the fact that many workers will receive their December pay packet this weekend, is likely to spark a trend for festive gift shopping to begin tomorrow.
Elena Antoniou, spokeswoman for department store Debenhams, said: “Sundays are now our busiest day online.
“With many people receiving their last pay packet before Christmas this weekend we are expecting to see them to start their festive shopping in earnest.
“Online shoppers were once stuck in the spare room on a desk top [computer], now they shop online from the sofa with tablets, smartphones and laptops, while still keeping an eye on the television.”
The number of visits made to UK retail websites is expected to rocket this year to 113 million on Monday alone, branding consultancy Experian Marketing Services has claimed. Boxing Day, however, is expected to eclipse both Sofa Sunday and Cyber Monday as the biggest online shopping day for the whole of 2013.
The average consumer will spend eight hours browsing, researching and buying Christmas presents online this December – a 7.5 per cent increase on the previous year, the firm said.
Retailer Argos said visitors to its website on last year’s Cyber Monday had rocketed by 50 per cent due to the online shopping boom and added it expected the figure to be even higher this year. This year’s latest games console, the Playstation 4, is set to be one of the most sought-after presents this year. Fans queued for hours ahead of the official launch on Thursday.