In almost 20 years of commenting on the retail sector the past week has been one of the least enjoyable. The reason for this is the dark cloud that Black Friday has cast over the industry.

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Where’s the snow?

Firstly, it has been the level of bandwagon jumping by retailers, service providers, research houses, commentators, and media channels, all giving this glorified Sale far too much attention.

It’s an import that would have little relevancy in the UK had it not been for the insatiable appetite for anything derived from the land of the Stars and Stripes. And maybe a little desperation among retailers to not be left out of things.

My disappointment is nothing to do with anti-Americanism. It is about the way retailers have sought to leverage any old bit of mileage out of Black Friday – in terms of both publicity and sales. I think on many fronts the results can probably be classed as a not many notches above useless.

It’s clearly been sucking Christmas sales earlier into the cycle and at reduced margin. And for some big name retailers their online stores were simply incapable of handling the increased traffic. They had to place thousands of customers into virtual queues. At least this achieved many retailers’ aim of giving an in-store experience online.

However, the real losers in this Black Friday game are the grocers – most notably Asda and Tesco. They apparently completely underestimated the demand for flat screen TVs and other electrical items at many of their larger stores.

The result being fights and violence. It’s the sort of unseemly spectacle that is degrades humanity and puts retail in a pretty shallow light. Agreed retailers have all-and-sundry crossing their threshold, with some people having no qualms about fighting, but it is the merchants’ responsibility to ensure there are sufficient deterrents to prevent this happening.

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No better online

They have been stoking up the consumer appetite for discounted goods on Black Friday for weeks so is it really any surprise lots of people turned up with the intent of walking away with as flat screen TV.

One of the stores where plenty of aggro occurred was Tesco in Edmonton. Now doesn’t Edmonton have form in this area? Oh yes, there was serious problems of people nearly being crushed when IKEA opened its new store with large discounts.

It appears little has been learned. Even less so when you consider that in the US there have been some very serious issues – with shootings at both Wal-Mart and Target stores. In light of Asda being owned by Wal-Mart, it really should know better.

The only thing missing from this year’s frenzied activity on Friday is that nobody was killed – in either the crushes or from any fighting. Now that really would have been a Black Friday to remember! Lessons should now be learned.

Glynn Davis, editor, Retail Insider