UK
29/11/2013 07:32 GMT | Updated 29/11/2013 08:21 GMT

Black Friday On Oxford Street: Reporting From The Retail Warzone

Asa Bennett
Shoppers queue up to try and get a Playstation 4 at John Lewis... even though they're out of stock.

Black Friday on Oxford Street has been saved from being an outright anticlimax by Sony, who have successfully hijacked it for the launch of their Playstation 4.

I had ventured to Oxford Street, as London's retail hub, to check out the madness as "Black Friday" made its biggest push into UK shops.

Shoppers snapped up the 30 units stocked by the John Lewis department store at its Oxford Street store within the first five minutes of opening.

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PS4-hunters even queued outside the Selfridges for hours, with 20 "big burly blokes" bursting into HMV's small branch in the department store, to be told that they did not stock any there. HMV had instead piled up their PS4s in their main Oxford Street branch, where they flew off the shelves.

The Playstation 4 was the biggest (and only) show in town as desperate PS4-less shoppers swarmed the checkout counter in the normally tranquil department store to try and get their hands on a PS4.

"The suppliers always send us so few and it causes havoc," a John Lewis manager overseeing the mayhem sighed to me, "our website was sold out within a minute past midnight". Fear not, shoppers will get their PS4 fix at John Lewis later as I was told another 40 units would arrive later in the Black Friday afternoon.

For those not wanting Sony's latest gizmo, Oxford Street shops were offering discounts, even if many of them seemed nonplussed by Black Friday hitting the UK.

"Black Friday? What is that?" a staff member at the Disney Store asked me, shooting a panicked look to her manager who added: "We generally have good deals.". Any for the deal-hungry Black Friday crowds? "We generally have good deals," he repeated, to not-quite answer the question.

Fashion stores drew in a healthy flow of curious shoppers, as dozens were ambling into Primark's superstore by the mid-morning. But the crowd could easily have been normal Friday morning custom, as one assistant told me, "it's like most Fridays here for us".

Primark shoppers didn't seem too desperate to hunt for Black Friday bargains either. "They've always got good bargains here," one bargain-hunter told me.

A staff member near one of the make-up counters in House of Fraser said they had noticed a nice extra few people coming in that morning and they were "keener to buy". It may not have been reports of retail mania as seen in America, but the 10% discounts on offer must have helped.

Other shops, like a Chinese "Herbal Inn" seemed not to have received the Black Friday memo, as they remained shut.

Wading my way down Oxford Street, my attention was caught by Ann Summers' promising "20% off everything today". Had they got into the Black Friday mood?

All for the sake of journalistic thoroughness, I popped in to check out their Black Friday wares to be drowned in black lingerie and all sorts of undergarments.

Initially I thought it was clever Black Friday organisation to move the black items to the front, but a bemused staff member told me otherwise.

"It's just how the shop is laid out - it's not specially for Black Friday. The discounts are all for Christmas really."

The sleepiness among Oxford Street's shops this Black Friday may improve in the afternoon. However, it's unlikely to reach the heights of delirium seen today in branches of Asda, which has been offering up to half price off plasma TVs.

Police had to be called to tame the shoppers in their Park Royal store, while a punch-up broke out at Asda's Bristol branch.

For Oxford Street though, Black Friday has mainly passed unnoticed, as many would think of it just as "PS4 Day".