It is often billed as a day of shopping madness, but for the second year running, shops across Gwent remained quiet on Black Friday. LUKE JARMYN investigates.

TWO years ago, Gwent seemed transfixed with Black Friday as Tesco Extra in Spytty, Newport, turned into a mass brawl.

A number of shops across the region saw huge queues of people searching for bargains, as the American craze took hold this side of the Atlantic.

But the madness of 2014 has not been replicated since then, with this year's bonanza another damp squib for shops.

This was despite a YouGov poll in advance of Friday November 25 which showed that people in Wales were the most likely of all areas in the UK to plan to shop for the day of reduced deals and special bargains, with more than £1.3 billion expected to be spent across the country.

Gwent Police and a number of stores made arrangements for railings and other ways to control expected hoards.

But, again, it never materialised.

Certain big supermarkets and other stores did decide to opt out in reaction to the malaise of 2014’s bargain-crazed customers.

This included Asda, who have around 10 stores across the region, and other big brands including IKEA.

Andy Mulcahy, editor at IMRG, which tracks online sales, said he thinks this might have been a factor.

"We've seen that our forecast of £1.27bn in 2016 has been met for Black Friday’s sales," he said.

“But it can work for companies to stay out of the discounting if they play it well. Not everybody likes Black Friday, some people absolutely hate it."

The lead manager at the Tesco Extra store in Maesglas, Matt James, said that although the store had offers on, including a Sharp 55inch TV reduced from £529 to £130, they ‘didn’t seem to make much of a difference’.

“Our key offers were there and on sale, but there didn’t seem to be so much demand this year," he added.

"A couple of years ago, our best products would have been gone by 7am, but not this year.”

Wildings managing director Peter James is critical of Black Friday, which his Newport-based department store isn't involved with, adding 'it isn’t good for either retailers or shoppers’.

He said: “As a recent import from America, I know that most retailers would have preferred that Black Friday never came to these shores.

“The day seems to be best for electrical goods and whilst more nationals groups like John Lewis have taken part, I don’t believe it is good for business.

Councillor Chris Evans, of the Rogerstone ward, said he was at a loss to explain why the number of shoppers seen two years has not been replicated in Newport or elsewhere in Gwent.

He said: “I think it could work better for the national retailers as maybe some smaller stores don’t see what they can gain out of it.

“I think the new term of the day in Newport isn’t clear to some as many have always called the last Friday before Christmas Black Friday.”

Nicholls, who have large sites in Abergavenny and Crickhowell, did take part this year though, reporting a spike in sales on the day.

Business development manager of the business, Richard Barber, said: “We pushed Black Friday at all our stores and put a lot more offers on.

“It went better than usual and that was in a part through us using the internet and social media. It’s the best way and worked really well both on the day and the weekend as a whole.”

Lee Elliott, who has owned City Carpets in Newport for eight years, also said they saw a measured increase in business.

“We did a lot of promotional work and advertising into the day offering cheaper deals than we otherwise would," he said.

"Whilst dropping the price down past our usual discounts did work well and we gained a plot of business, it wasn’t quite as much as I was expecting.

Royal Mail, meanwhile, said Newport was one of their shopping hotspots in Wales on the day with the postman unusually busy.

Research into consumers’ shopping habits ahead of Black Friday found that 70 per cent of shoppers expected to spend between one and three hours shopping online this year.

Meanwhile one in five said they expected to do all their Black Friday shopping online.

The only places in Wales that had more online purchases were Llandrindod Wells, Llandudno, Swansea and Cardiff.

President of South Wales Chamber of Commerce, Liz Maher, stated that Newport’s location and its stores may not have been ‘lined up’ for Black Friday.

She said: “I think there is an awful lot of hype to generate marketing for Black Friday that people have wised up to.

“But there are also other reasons with personal credit low and confidence down due to Brexit. There is a lot of uncertainty at the moment and people will spend less and be more frugal if the market isn’t as solid. If a good bargain is out there, people will still look at it but it’s harder to sell than in other years.”