Black Friday 2014 in the UK was utter chaos. Shoppers wrestled items from each other's baskets as retail assistants tried their best not to get rugby tackled to the ground. Footage of a woman being dragged along the floor of a supermarket clutching hold of a TV was shared widely across news outlets.
One thing is clear from the events of last year: Black Friday, the late-November shopping event dedicated to massive discounting of goods imported from the US in 2013, and the UK is not a match made in retail heaven.
Historically, Black Friday in the UK meant something entirely different. It was the name that emergency services gave to the Friday before Christmas when a huge number of office parties would happen. Police and paramedics would be at their busiest as people boozed and made merry.
When retail Black Friday arrived fresh off the boat with its shopping bags at the ready, office Christmas party Friday was renamed Mad Friday. But the element of craziness and extra work for the emergency services traditionally associated with the Black Friday name remained relevant.
Despite the shopping date being closely linked with Thanksgiving in the US in the same way that Boxing Day is known for sales in the UK, the event proved popular among British consumers in 2013 and 2014. But that popularity came at a cost.
In November 2014 police criticised consumers and retailers alike after being called to multiple stores around the country to deal with out-of-control shoppers. This year police are anticipating further problems and have pleaded with shops to cancel Black Friday sales. The National Police Chiefs' Council has said that officers will intervene if necessary, Sky reports, but they should not be used as a substitute for properly planned in-store security.
While many retailers are going ahead with the event, major supermarket chain Asda, which is owned by US-based Black Friday cheerleader Walmart, and where the aforementioned telly-dragging incident took place, has bowed out altogether. Earlier this week it announced that it had called time on the phenomenon due to "shopper fatigue".
"Instead of the hustle and bustle and pressure of one- or two-day sales where customers typically push the boat out on high-value items, this year Asda customers say they'd prefer deals on value-for-money, high-quality products," the retailer said in a statement. Asda's alternative plan is to offer a range of deals across all of its product ranges online and in store from the beginning of November into the New Year.
Marks and Spencers, which joined in with the event for the first time last year, has not yet announced whether it will be hosting a sale this year on 27 November.
Some shoppers may be disappointed that Black Friday will mean fewer stores participating than last year, but according to research firm Verdict Retail, just 37 percent of British consumers plan to shop in this year's sale, compared to 47 percent in 2014.
"Concerns over crowded stores and bad experiences with late deliveries of online orders last year have dampened excitement," writes Verdict Retail senior analyst Kate Ormrod in a blog post, "despite greater press coverage and intense planning and investment from retailers."
Of those who do intend to make purchases on Black Friday, 65 percent have said they are only prepared to shop online. Last year many websites, including John Lewis, Argos and Tesco Direct crashed as shoppers attempted to browse for bargains. Others trying to shop online with Curry's and PC World were forced to sit in a virtual queue in order to access their websites.
Even though some shoppers and retailers will be scaling back after the panic-buying frenzies of 2014, Black Friday will still be going ahead in the UK. Sales are expected to be strong, and department store John Lewis believes the event will help it "win Christmas" for the seventh year in a row. "Black Friday has turned into our biggest week by a mile, and it will be bigger again this year," managing director Andy Street told City AM.
Not all retailers are so confident. Home Retail Group, which owns Argos, warned that the uncertainty around Black Friday would probably lead to it missing its profit margin. Last year, the company recorded even sales every week throughout the Christmas shopping period, Home Retail CEO John Walden told the Wall Street Journal. The retailer will still offer deals to customers this year though. "We're not going to step back and not compete," Walden said.
There seems to be something of a "you've got to be in it to win it" mentality around Black Friday -- John Lewis' Street called Asda's decision not to take part "brave". The event may still be going ahead this year, but with the interest of both shoppers and retailers waning under the strain of time-limited bargain hunting, it might not be long until retail Black Friday is shipped back whence it came.