It was six years ago that the American shopping concept of Black Friday really took off in the UK, when a woman trying to get a cheap TV in a Belfast branch of Asda broke her arm in a stampede. The next year police were called to a Wigan Tesco after reports that several hundred people were trying to break down the doors before the midnight opening time.
Now one city in Yorkshire is fighting back against the pressure-selling “shopocalypse”. Buy Nowt Friday in Bradford encourages residents to enjoy a day without spending any money.
The event, at the former Forster’s Bistro in Centenary Square, is hosted by Bradford Credit Union and the art charity Artworks Creative Communities, which four years ago came up with the idea of creating a Currency Free Zone on Black Friday. This year they are also putting on a free event in nearby Keighley on what has become known as Cyber Monday.
Black Friday began in the US in the 1960s, pushed by retailers keen to encourage consumers to begin their Christmas shopping early, the day after Thanksgiving.
Opponents to the concept came up with International Buy Nothing Day, a protest against consumerism that spread to the UK under the banner “Escape the shopocalypse”. It encouraged consumers to swerve the “absurd dystopian phenomenon” and the “rabid free-for-all” that had created a “brand of shoppers who will trample and fight each other to get their hands on next year’s landfill”.
Ian Brewer, a financial inclusion officer at Bradford Credit Union, said Buy Nowt Day was Yorkshire’s riposte to Black Friday and aimed to encourage people to save their money rather than spend it on things they didn’t need.
People on lower incomes could feel under pressure to take advantage of the offers, he said. “People feel disenfranchised if they are seeing all of these discounts and they can’t partake, so we are offering the chance to come down and make Christmas cards, do other crafts and listen to music, as well as get debt advice.”
A band called Issimo will play a set, including a track called Money, about the victim of a loan shark.
Brewer stressed the event was not anti-business. “We are not anti people taking advantage of the discounts on Black Friday. We are just saying: do a budget beforehand. Work out what money you’ve got between now and Christmas. If you’ve got disposable income and you want to take advantage of Black Friday, great. If you don’t have that money available, don’t spend it.”