The long weekend
A new, earlier discount frenzy grips Christmas shoppers
THE rhythms of Christmas used to be so simple. Buy presents in December, eat and drink too much, return unwanted gifts, then hunt bargains in the January sales. Such habits may now be altered by the arrival on British shores of Black Friday, an American retail phenomenon.
Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving. This year it falls on November 28th. As Thanksgiving day revolves around the eating, so Black Friday revolves around the shopping. It has become the biggest day of the year for American retailers as they discount thousands of products, kick-starting the Christmas shopping season. According to one story the name thus refers to shops doing such booming trade that they go from the red into the black. It might equally be named because of the casualty rate. Shoppers get hurt in the stampede for bargains. Some have even died.
Since they do not celebrate Thanksgiving, Brits had never taken to Black Friday, until last year. Then, some British retailers joined American-owned companies like Amazon to introduce big savings. This year many more have embraced it. Visa Europe predicts that shoppers will spend 6,000 per second on the day. John Lewis, a big London department store, is opening for its longest day ever, from 8am to 10pm.
With such demand, why stop at one day? Most retailers are now stretching it into the following week, at least until Cyber Monday. That's the day after the Black Friday weekend when shoppers are supposed to go crazy online, although John Lewis reckons they won't be able to wait that long. Last year, its mobile traffic in the peak hour 7-8am was fourteen times higher on Black Friday than anything it had seen before.
For retailers, it all gets people into the buying mood for Christmas early. The only worry, argues Joshua Bamfield of the Centre for Retail Research, is that shoppers might be loth to fork out at regular prices when the discounts end.
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