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Black Friday Lands in U.K. as Crowds Descend on Asda Stores

Black Friday at Asda Store
An employee, surrounded by customers, carries a new Toshiba Corp. flat screen television during a Black Friday discount sale inside an Asda supermarket in Wembley. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Britons queued outside Asda supermarkets this morning and charged into stores when doors opened at 8 a.m. as the U.K. grocery chain took on the Black Friday mantle from U.S. owner Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

Shoppers at about 350 stores across the country rushed to get their hands on bargain-priced items from televisions to tablets and bicycles, recreating scenes that have been commonplace across the Atlantic for decades.

“It was mental and by shortly after 8 o’clock most of the TVs and tablets were gone,” said Bryan Roberts, an analyst at Kantar Retail who witnessed the spectacle at Asda’s store in Wembley, north London. An altercation between two customers over a television “gave it an air of American authenticity.”

On Twitter, customers posted photos and videos of the chaotic scenes in outlets from Liverpool to London. Asda reported long queues at stores in cities including York, Leeds and Swansea. Outside the Wembley location, Roberts said he witnessed a shopper trying to cram a toy kitchen, a large toy car and two television sets into the back of his car.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, a woman was taken to hospital with a suspected broken wrist following a stampede at the Westwood shopping center’s Asda store, the Belfast Telegraph reported, citing eyewitnesses and the ambulance service. A spokeswoman for the grocer said she was unable to provide any immediate comment on the incident.

A male shopper was arrested in Bristol, southwest England, following a row over two 60-inch (1.52-meter) televisions, the Daily Mail reported.

Tablets, Televisions

Asda, Britain’s second-largest supermarket chain, said it shifted 11,000 tablets and 10,000 televisions in an hour and that queues started forming at stores from 5 a.m.

“The reaction to our Black Friday sale at Asda has been phenomenal,” Andrew Moore, the grocer’s chief merchandising officer, said in a statement. “This is how customers react to genuine deals, not gimmicks and promotions.”

Asda’s event included tablets for 42 pounds ($68.56) and 42-inch flat-screen televisions for 259 pounds. It’s the first time the U.K. chain has held a Black Friday event similar to that of its U.S. owner, which today reported its busiest shopping day of the season.

Asda wasn’t the only U.K. retailer seeking to capitalize on a shopping day that has become the busiest of the year in the U.S. Department-store chain John Lewis Partnership Plc offered discounts on 100 electrical products for today only, while Inc.’s U.K. website is offering cut-price deals on thousands of items for the entire week.

“Realistically it is a bit of a gimmick to drive footfall, but it also means that it’s likely to be here to stay,” said Andrew Gwynn, an analyst at Exane BNP Paribas. “If Asda shifts significant volumes, competitors will follow suit next year.”

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