Black Friday madness sweeps across US

WASHINGTON: Shoppers brawled for everything from Barbie dolls to Xboxes and flat screen TVs as Americans indulged in a manic shopping spree known as Black Friday that follows gluttonous feats of over-eating on Thanksgiving on November 27 evening. Stores nationwide expanded their Black Friday to hours before (some, heretically, opened on Thursday evening) and some extended it to days after (Wal-Mart went in for five-day sale).

But that hardly dimmed the ardor of bargain hunters who stampeded through stores snapping up laptops for less than $150 and clothes for a song. Pitched battles were reported in some stores, butmercifully no deaths of the kind that occurred in previous years when crushing mobs overran theweak, the infirm, and sales people who couldn’t get out of the way. Seven people have died in Black Friday related incidents since 2006, according to the website that sells a “I Survived Black Friday T-shirts” with the incidents listed on the back.

In all, Black Friday indulgences, which is reportedly catching on in India after storming through the UK is expected to net something in the region of $60 billion in sales across the US. The National Retail Federation recorded 247 million shoppers spending an average of $423 over Black Friday weekend (which typically extends Thursday to Sunday) in 2012, but last year’s sales were much weaker. Stores have ramped it up this year by stretching it to manic Monday, bargain Tuesday etc, and market mavens will be holding their breath to see if the record quarterly growth of 3.9% registered in the most recent quarter — the highest in a decade — has rubbed off on consumers whose spending in turn fires up the economy.

The window between Thanksgiving and New Year (some stretch it as far as Valentine’s day) is said to account for more than 60% of American shopping. The term Black Friday itself is credited to the Philadelphia city police who, going back to the 1960s, used it to label the crowds of shoppers and ensuing traffic jams. It was later employed to identify the day retailers made profits (went into black) after months of being in red. Some attribute it to pre-dawn sales that begin in the wee hours of Friday when it is still dark

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