Black Friday is an American import that has taken root in much of Europe, adopted by retailers and shoppers as the first trumpet sound to kick off the holiday shopping season, even if Thanksgiving remains a holiday in a faraway country.
But Black Friday takes many forms. With a focus on toy stores, here are three snapshots of the state of Black Friday in Europe.
In Spain, the shopping season shifts earlier.
Earlier this week, Clara Pascual prepared to post a poster advertising the Black Friday sale on the front door of her family’s toy store in central Madrid.
There were no shoppers at her store, which she said was not a cause for concern because she expected most of her customers to come on Friday and Saturday to take advantage of a 10 percent discount on toys purchased during her event at Black Friday.
“In the last week or so, I think more people have come to check if we have a Black Friday special than actually buy something,” said Ms. Pascual, whose store is called Hola Caracola. , or Hello Snail.
For toy stores, Black Friday is a shift in their retail calendars because, according to Spanish tradition, children receive gifts on January 6, the feast of Epiphany, when the star led the three kings to the baby Jesus.
“We have already had to adapt to the fact that more Spanish families give presents at Christmas than for kings so that their children can enjoy their toys during their longer holidays,” said Ms. Pascual, “and now, on top of that, we know a lot of people will be buying their Christmas toys as early as Black Friday – especially this year as everyone is worried about shipping issues. “
“Obviously, Black Friday is a cultural heritage that has nothing to do with our own traditions and has nothing to do with globalization,” she said, “which you can welcome or not.”
Federico Corradini, chief executive of XChannel, a marketing company representing a dozen toy brands in Spain and Italy, said he expects their Black Friday sales to triple from last year, helped by increased ad spend.
Get the most out of Black Friday
Black Friday is usually the best time for great deals, but stock shortages and delivery delays are making things difficult this year.
“Most of our companies are making big bids this Black Friday to sell as much as possible, also because they already know they will have shipping problems during Christmas,” he said.
In Italy, the attraction is customer service in person.
The Dreoni toy store has been a trademark of Florence, Italy for 98 years and hasn’t been around for long without responding to new trends.
Several years ago, Italians began to expect big sales on a day called Black Friday, said Silvia Dreoni, co-owner of the store and the third generation that runs it.
“We inevitably had to adapt,” she said. “We want to keep up with the times and we welcomed Black Friday just like Halloween.”
However, translated into Italian, these words suggested a collapse in the stock market. So the English term “Black Friday” took root, denoting its American roots.
A walk in Dreoni is magic for kids and adults alike, with a ceiling painted to look like a blue sky crossed by puffy white clouds. The Bolshoi Puppet Theater features the Italian character Pinocchio, a wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy. The tale of Pinocchio was written by Carlo Collodi, who was born near the store.
About 10 years ago, Ms. Dreoney and her sister realized that their business needed a website, and they now have 8,000 toys on their shelves in their online store. But, according to Ms. Dreoney, personal selling is more satisfying.
“Selling online is good, but cold, no emotion,” she said. “Many people still like to touch a toy or ask a specialist to explain it to them. It’s not like buying a frying pan or a casserole. “
The surge in online shopping this time of year puts a strain on courier services across the country, making life difficult for small delivery companies.
According to Marco Magli, owner of ADL SPA Corriere Espresso, a local courier in Bologna, major national and international shipping companies have been inundated with online orders from Amazon and other e-commerce sites. “Every day we need to find out who can help us deliver our goods to Milan or outside the city,” he said. “The market is completely saturated.”
“In the last couple of years, delivery volumes have started to rise as early as November, whereas before it was only at the beginning of December,” confirmed Massimo Pedretti, union leader for SDA, a courier company owned by the Italian postal service.
“This is because of Black Friday week,” he said.
In Germany, another holiday season will not avoid a pandemic.
The record number of new cases of coronavirus is dampening the mood of German shoppers over the year, with many eagerly awaiting the opportunity to return to holiday markets and beautified shopping streets.
In Bavaria, the closure of many holiday markets to contain the spread of the virus has proven beneficial to business at Kunst und Spiel, or Art and Play, a store that specializes in German-made wooden toys and games.
“Our customers are happy that we are open,” said Florian Bartsch, store manager.
But given the current infection rate, only 50 people are allowed into the store in central Munich at a time, he added. And limited supplies are holding back sales. “Wooden toys are popular this year, although we have problems with delivery,” said Mr Barch. “All wholesalers are buying them.”
Shipments of some locally-made toys are still feeling the effects of previous bans, he said, including some items made in a workshop for the disabled in Germany.
“They were forced to close at the height of the pandemic last year and only recently returned to full production,” he said. “They’ve been supported by at least nine months.”
Concerns that delays in delivery will make it harder to find last-minute gifts, sales during the Black Friday promotion could rise 27 percent from last year, the German retail association HDE said this week.
In early November, the retailers’ association forecast a 2% increase in sales in the last two months of the year, based on strong consumer sentiment ahead of the holiday season. But in the past two weeks, the country has broken one record after another for the number of new infections, forcing authorities to close restaurants, bars and Christmas markets in the country’s eastern and southern states.
At Kunst und Spiel, Bartsch said that sales in the last three months of the year typically account for 70% of his annual business. After the losses he suffered during the 2020 lockdown, he hopes to be able to stay open, even if that means his employees have additional vaccination, camouflage jobs and no more than 50 buyers at a time.
“If our sales remain the same, I will be happy,” he said.