Black Friday bargain hunt marked by shootings and brawls in United States
America's busiest shopping day of the year sees one man stabbed in fight over a parking spot, and the chaos spreading across the Atlantic
Agencies in New York
Punch-ups, a stabbing and two shootings marked Black Friday - the busiest shopping day of the year in the United States.
Chaos ensued as frenzied shoppers rushed to get their hands on bargain buys during a day of sales.
The pandemonium even extended across the Atlantic, with a woman injured in Northern Ireland.
Although there were no deaths reported, unlike in previous years, the annual stampede for discounted items saw tempers flare across the US.
Media reported that police shot a suspected shoplifter in Chicago, while a man was stabbed in the US state of Virginia in a fight over a parking spot at a branch of the Wal-Mart retail giant. YouTube carried a video of unruly crowds at a Texas store.
The violence started on Thursday night, as many stores opened their doors early.
Police in Las Vegas said a shopper leaving a store with a television set was shot by a thief.
In Rialto, California, a police officer was injured trying to break up a fight in a car park.
Organisers said tens of thousands of people marched nationwide, spread across 1,500 stores in 46 states. More than 110 people were arrested.
"Wal-Mart jobs should be good-paying jobs, family-supporting jobs," said Walter Turner, pastor of the New Spiritual Light Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago. He was arrested at one of more than 110 protests reported across the country.
A Wal-Mart spokesman defended the company's wages as "on the higher end of the retail average" and said the company promoted good performers.
Holiday shopping traditionally accounts for 20 to 40 per cent of an individual retailer's annual sales, according to the National Retail Federation.
But one consequence of the Thursday launch to the weekend was somewhat lower shopping volumes on Friday morning, said analyst RJ Hottovy.
"Traffic is down a little bit," said Hottovy, noting that some shoppers may also have stayed away due to cold weather and increased online shopping.
Retailers have been pushing opening times earlier in recent years, so the early-morning Friday crowds are now seen the day before, on Thanksgiving night. The name "Black Friday" comes from the period when retailers traditionally turn a profit, or move out of the red and into the black.
The Belfast mayhem occurred at the British supermarket chain Asda - owned by Wal-Mart - which had been advertising its Black Friday deals throughout the UK.
The woman was taken to hospital with an arm injury.
Sales figures for this year's Thanksgiving and Black Friday will trickle out in the next couple days, but some big chains were already saying the holiday shopping season had started well.
Other forecasts were less rosy. Morgan Stanley predicted the worst sales since 2008, when the US economy was in recession.
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, The New York Times