Black Friday News: An Unpredictable Holiday Shopping Season Begins

Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

LONDON — There may not be a Thanksgiving feast or long holiday weekend on this side of the Atlantic, but that’s not stopping Europeans from flocking to the high streets and online sales looking for bargains.

Black Friday started making its way to Europe years ago, with one-day sales focusing on electronics and home appliances. These days, businesses see it as one of the biggest days on the retail calendar, with discounts across the board, on clothing, food, theater tickets, vacation packages and more. Sales in Britain often last the whole month of November as people react to discounts by pushing their holiday shopping forward.

Still, this holiday season for European businesses – typically a big chunk of annual revenue – may be less beneficial than usual. With energy costs, mortgage payments and retail prices rising, consumers have less money to spend on holiday gifts. Many imported goods have become more expensive due to the weakness of the pound and the euro against the dollar.

These pressures could cause buyers to concentrate their purchases on Fridays. Jessica Distler, partner and managing director of the Boston Consulting Group in Berlin and author of a recent report on Black Fridaysaid economic concerns would likely prompt European consumers to shop more on Black Friday to grab the best bargains.

“There’s more focus on promotional offers because you have that anxiety and you have less budget to spend,” she said.

European consumers said their spending would be down this year compared to last year, according to the Boston Consulting Group. survey of more than 7,000 consumers in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Great Britain. The survey, which also polled more than 2,000 consumers in Australia and the United States, found that only American consumers said they planned to increase their spending from a year ago.

In Britain, on average, consumers said they expected to spend 18% less on holiday shopping than last year as they cut back on non-essential items due to rising prices , according to the survey.

Even though its popularity has grown, Black Friday shopping in Europe has lacked the same frenetic energy as in the United States, said Tom Holder, spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, the trade association for British retailers.

“There’s never been this kind of American style, we hold the doors and everyone charges,” Mr Holder said. “A few stores might have managed to get that, but it wasn’t that, ‘Let’s go all crazy,’ kind of thing.”

In Britain, where the annual inflation rate exceeded 11% in October, there are already signs that this holiday season could be disappointing for retailers. According a report published last week by the UK Office for National Statistics.

Black Friday comes as European businesses are also plagued by staff shortages and have had to raise wages to attract staff. Three-quarters of UK businesses have been hit by labor shortages in the past year, according to a survey of 325 companies published last month by the Confederation of British Industry, a trade association. Nearly half of affected businesses are unable to meet customer demands, according to the study.

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