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Black Friday Crosses The Pond


We're going to play you another bit of sound from Black Friday today.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Hey, seriously, you need to calm down before someone gets hurt, yeah?

SHAPIRO: Did you catch the accent of the people there? That was not a woman screaming at jerks jumping the line. That woman was screaming at chavs jumping the queue. Yes, we are hearing tape from London - funny, since Black Friday is an American invention to lure in shoppers the day after Thanksgiving. And Thanksgiving has not crossed the Atlantic Ocean - Black Friday has. We called retail analyst Rahul Sharma of Neev Capital to help explain what's going on. Welcome to the program.

RAHUL SHARMA: Hello there.

SHAPIRO: How did Black Friday come to the U.K.?

SHARMA: Well, actually we have our American cousins to thank. I think effectively Amazon brought Black Friday into the U.K. four or five years ago as a way of promoting its website and also giving shoppers a bit of excitement and reason to go out there and shop.

Now, over the years as Amazon became more and more successful here, I think other retailers realized they were missing out on that sale and they had to catch up.

SHAPIRO: And so, as you say, this has been a few years in the making, but this year really seems to have been different.

SHARMA: That's right. I think that this year's really when a lot of mainstream retailers are actually realizing they can't afford not to have offers out here because shoppers are beginning to expect them. I think there's been a lot of media buzz around the event as well, which has heightened expectations, and so shoppers have been out there in force. I mean, they've been told that they're going to get these unbelievable bargains, just like the U.S. shopper does, and, therefore, there was a lot of the expectation out there.

SHAPIRO: And though some Americans may have a stereotype of British people as prim and proper, that is certainly not what we saw outside the likes of Tesco and John Lewis and other stores today.

SHARMA: Certainly not, I think there was a bit of a frenzy and it just shows everyone loves a bargain for all the reputation of having stiff upper lips, et cetera. There was a lot of fighting. There was jostling for TVs. I even heard about somebody biting someone else for, you know, to nab a TV ahead of someone else.

SHAPIRO: How about Cyber Monday? That's another American major shopping day. Has that made its way over yet?

SHARMA: I think it has, but I think Black Friday has been both an event online and off-line. So even online you've had great deals. And so I think, you know, it's going to be more like a Black Friday weekend rather than a Cyber Monday event. Sure, the American companies, particularly Amazon, will probably put up a Cyber Monday event as well here, but what's really captured the imagination is Black Friday, and Black Friday is a weekend of shopping both off-line and online here.

SHAPIRO: Rahul Sharma, managing director of Neev Capital in London. Thank you and stay safe out there.

SHARMA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.