Will Black Friday revive European retail?

Are we just jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to boost sales, or is there some method behind the Black Friday madness?

Woman using tablet and holding Black Friday shopping bag while standing on the stairs with the mall background

Black Friday is here. And for retailers across Europe this US-originated shopping extravaganza is set to provide a vital indicator of what 2019’s Holiday Season has in store for us.

So why does the day after Thanksgiving, a holiday that has no resonance for us Europeans, drive so much of our retail strategy? Are we just jumping on the bandwagon in an attempt to boost sales, or is there some method behind the Black Friday madness?


Almost 70 years of Black Friday tradition

Black Friday originated all the way back in 1952 in the States, as American shopkeepers infamously marked the 4th Friday in November as the day that their books turned black (positive) from red (negative).

So why has it taken European retailers so long to also promote Black Friday as the start of the holiday shopping season?

The UK first popularized Black Friday just 5 short years ago. PWC’s report this week explores retailers’ original reluctance:

When it was first popularized in the UK, there were reports of crowds storming stores and websites crashing under the weight of traffic as shoppers rushed to bag the best deals. But some retailers were concerned that this cannibalized higher margin, full priced sales in the run up to Christmas.’


Europe takes just 5 years to catch up

Despite this reluctance, 5 years has been all it has taken for our European sales figures from this event to have almost caught up with our American counterparts. As shown by Adobe Insight’s 2019 report:

Holiday spending in Europe will grow 10% this year [2019] , just below the US estimate of 11%. However, Black Friday itself has grown 124% over the past four years.’


UK, Germany & France dominate Black Friday sales

So where in Europe is Black Friday having the biggest impact? According to the same report for 2019:

‘Most money in Europe will be spent in the United Kingdom and Germany, who will both grow 10 percent to 27.1 billion euros and 22.9 billion euros respectively. Holiday sales in France are forecast to grow 11 percent to 14.3 billion euros.’

And Black Friday sales have particularly grown in the Nordic Countries, where sales have increased by 187% since 2013 compared to 66% elsewhere in Europe.


What does Black Friday 2019 have in store?

It will be exciting to see if Black Friday tips the scales in Benelux this year to become the biggest shopping day across the whole of Europe. Given how quickly Black Friday has taken off, one year could be all that it takes.

So, like it or loathe it, our bet is that your store will have a Black Friday promotional strategy in full swing this weekend. These figures have demonstrated that it is indeed more than just hype, or us jumping on the American bandwagon.

Ultimately, all that really matters is customer experience and expectations. And with our shoppers being hit with Black Friday adverts over the last weeks, smart retailers will be set to capitalize on that.

I can already hear the cash registers ringing. May the holiday shopping season commence…