If you think Oxford Street on Christmas Eve is bad, that’s only because you’ve never seen Black Friday in the USA.
Quite simply, it’s one of the busiest shopping days there is.
Some employers even give the day as an extra holiday, adding to the chaos at the shops, while some major retailers open their doors as early as 4am.
Many major US stores launch massive promotional sales to drive customers through the door and kick the Christmas shopping season off with a bang.
It works, dangerously well in fact. In 2008 a Wall Mart employee was trampled to death as crowds rushed in while last year one woman unleashed pepper spray on fellow shoppers in an attempt to get her hands on a discounted Xbox.
[Related feature: The 10 worst Black Friday moments]
Why’s it called Black Friday?
The name Black Friday does sound more like its commemorating a tragedy than celebrating consumerism.
In fact, there’s dispute over exactly where the name comes from. One theory is that businesses tend to make a profit in the run up to Christmas, which would traditionally be noted in black – where losses are listed in red.
Another explanation is that the roads would be so busy with vehicles and pedestrians that they would turn black, giving the day its name.
Over-discounted and over here
Like everything American, from overblown Halloween parties to Baywatch, we’ve imported this trend to the UK.
In fact, despite the fact that we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, this day is growing in importance in the UK as the start of the main Christmas shopping season.
As a result, growing numbers of retailers, especially online sellers, have started promoting their own Black Friday deals. So how can you find them?
Here’s what I’ve found…
This is definitely the biggest Black Friday sale available to us Brits. Amazon has launched a major price crash in honour of the day.
All week it’s been offering up to 75% off various products through ‘Lightning Deals’. That means that the products are only offered at that price until they sell out, piling the pressure on shoppers to order as soon as they spot a deal they want.
For example, at the time of writing, it’s offering up to 75% off Invicta watches, up to 40% off baby toys and 30% off coffee machines.
This is not a retailer that’s known for sales and discounts. Apple sells high-end products and chooses to do so at a high-end price. That might be why it’s not calling it a sale but rather a ‘one-day Apple shopping event’.
You can shop online or in store, with rumours of some fairly decent discounts. Last year, the retailer knocked £51 off its 64GB iPad 2s and gave an £81 discount on the MacBook Air.
If you’re planning an Apple purchase any time soon then Black Friday could be the best day to buy it.
When you’re owned by Walmart, you’d expect some Black Friday deals and ASDA hasn’t disappointed.
It’s offering a small range of discounted products, for online shoppers only. These include an Xbox 360 console with a Kinect Sensor and Kinect Adventures for £170, down from £244.
Currys and PC World
In honour of Black Friday, Currys and PC World are both staging an online ‘100 hour price crash’.
Discounts include up to 40% on home appliances and over £300 off selected 3D and Smart TVs. The sale is online only, although you can arrange to ‘click and collect’ in store.
The sale ends at 6pm Monday, although some products may sell out before then.
Traditionally in the UK, the first Monday after November’s pay day is the busiest for online shopping. Visa has estimated that consumers will spend an astounding £222,222 a minute as they hurry to buy their Christmas gifts.
Sadly, retailers don’t seem to be spurring on the spending with a flurry of discounts, like they do in the States.
Of course, the good thing about shopping online is that you can easily compare prices before buying – so you can check you’re getting a bargain.
Have you spotted any terrific Black Friday deals? Share your bargains with other readers or just have your say in the comments below.