As you are probably already aware, Black Friday an American tradition that can trace its roots to the late 19th century when large department stores held their sales after Thanksgiving, a national holiday in America, to mark the start of the Christmas shopping season.

The phenomenon of massive discounts began in the latter half of the 20th century, with retail giants like Walmart leading the way with price crashes that drew large crowds through the doors. So popular did Walmart’s sales become, that in 2012, they actually opened their doors at 8pm on Thanksgiving day, receiving much criticism in the process. 

Walmart took over British supermarket Asda in 1999, but it wasn’t until 2013 that the chain decided to attempt a Black Friday sale in the UK, presumably driven to do so by the success that online retail giant Amazon had with its UK Black Friday sales that began in 2010. However, just two years after Asda launched its Black Friday event, and despite many other retailers joining the bandwagon, the supermarket decided not to participate any further and in 2015 it announced that there would be no Black Friday sale that year. In the years that have followed, Asda have continued to ignore Black Friday.

Wembley Woes

Outside of ASDA

ASDA (TravellingLight / Bigstockphoto.com)

When Asda held its first Black Friday sale in 2013 word quickly spread that the retailer was crashing prices on expensive, large electrical items, such as televisions and household white goods. As a result, large crowds were drawn to the stores, with many queueing from the early hours. As the Guardian reported at the time, there were scenes of chaos in several of Asda’s stores as shoppers clamoured for the bargains, with one woman reportedly injured in Merseyside and one man arrested in Bristol.

However, undeterred by these initial troubles, Asda once again launched a Black Friday event in 2014. This time, however, the media had cottoned onto the possibility of scuffles, and reporters were stationed in Asda’s Wembley branch. As the following tweet from the BBC’s Zoe Conway shows the media’s predictions were correct, and customers were knocked over during the chaos that ensued as people ran to grab the best bargains. Further footage showed several fights between customers and in the days that followed Asda received significant criticism for its inability to control the situation.

Asda’s Withdrawal from Black Friday in 2015

black friday fightAsda were not the only retailer that was faced with significant problems during Black Friday in 2014. As reported by the BBC, there were multiple incidents in Tesco stores across the country that led to Greater Manchester Police appealing for calm. However, in the weeks that led up to Black Friday 2015, only Asda was amongst the retail giants to withdraw from the promotion.

At the time, Asda denied that their decision to withdraw from the event was to do with the security incidents they had faced. Speaking to the Telegraph in 2015, Asda’s Chief Executive Andy Clarke stated:

"Over the last two years we've developed an organised, well-executed plan, but this year customers have told us loud and clear that they don't want to be held hostage to a day or two of sales."

"Customer Research"

asda logoAsda argued that they had carried out customer research that indicated that customers preferred to have deals spread out over the festive season and on a range of goods, including food and drink items, rather than just the big headline grabbing discounts associated with Black Friday.

We will probably never know if the decision was purely made based on this research, or if it was driven by the fracas at Wembley. What’s more, some retail experts have stated that there are probably additional reasons for Asda’s withdrawal from Black Friday sales. It’s understood that whilst hundreds of people entered Asda’s stores on that day, very few purchased groceries. Instead, shoppers came for the discounted items and left.

Furthermore, Asda drafted in additional staff to help out with the event, and it’s very possible that little profit was made as a result of these two factors. Speaking to the Guardian in 2015, Bruno Monteyne, a retail analyst at Bernstein Research said, "If it was driving people into stores they would do it again. Asda must have analysed the numbers and seen it didn’t make any sense. It may have driven a lot of traffic on that day but they have not made any money."

Will Asda Do A Black Friday Sale This Year?

green is the new blackAsda have been pretty resolute since making their decision to withdraw from Black Friday, despite fierce competition from their rivals. However, last year they held a two-week event that incorporated Black Friday. Named “Green Is the New Black”, this two week event saw discounts on a range of toys and household goods. In September this year, the store rolled back prices on hundreds of toys, so whilst they might not be having a big flash sale on Black Friday, it’s certainly worth checking and re-checking their website for any deals that come up in the next few weeks.