Black Friday is an American import that has caught on across much of Europe and is embraced by retailers and shoppers as an opening trumpet blast for the start of the Christmas shopping season — even if Thanksgiving remains a holiday in a distant land.
But Black Friday is taking shape in various forms. With toy stores as the focus, here are three snapshots of the state of Black Friday in Europe.
Earlier this week, Clara Pascual was preparing a poster advertising a Black Friday sale on the front door of her family-owned toy store in central Madrid.
There were no customers in her store — which was no cause for alarm, she said, as she expected most of her customers to show up Friday and Saturday to take advantage of the 10 percent discount on toys offered during her Black Friday event. was bought.
“Over the past week I think more people came in to check if we were going to have a Black Friday special offer than to actually buy anything,” said Ms. Pascual, whose store is called Hola Caracola, of Hello. Snail.
For toy stores, Black Friday is a shift in their shopping calendars, as the Spanish tradition is for children to receive their presents on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, which celebrates how a star led the three kings to baby Jesus.
“We have already had to adapt to the fact that more Spanish families give presents at Christmas than for the kings so that their children can enjoy their toys over a longer holiday period,” said Ms Pascual, “and on top of that we know that many people will already be buying their Christmas toys on Black Friday, especially this year because everyone is worried about delivery problems.”
“Obviously Black Friday is a cultural import that has nothing to do with our own traditions and everything to do with globalization,” she said, “which you may or may not welcome.”
Federico Corradini, the chief executive of XChannel, a marketing firm that represents a dozen toy brands in Spain and Italy, said he expected their sales to triple this Black Friday compared to last year, boosted by an increase in their ad spend.
“Most of our companies are making a big bet this Black Friday to sell as much as possible, also because they already know they will have delivery problems over the Christmas period,” he said.
In Italy, the appeal of personally serving customers is.
The Dreoni toy store has been a landmark in Florence, Italy for 98 years, and it didn’t last long without capitalizing on new trends.
A few years ago, Italians started expecting big sales on a day called Black Friday, said Silvia Dreoni, co-owner of the store and a third-generation member who runs the store.
“We inevitably had to adapt,” she said. “We want to move with the times and have embraced Black Friday, like we did with Halloween.”
However, when translated into Italian, the words indicated a stock market collapse. So the English term “Black Friday” stuck, marking its American roots.
Walking into Dreoni is magical for kids and adults alike, with a ceiling painted to look like a blue sky crisscrossed by puffy white clouds. A large puppet theater shows the Italian character of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who dreams of becoming a real boy. The story of Pinocchio was written by Carlo Collodi, who was born near the store.
About 10 years ago, Mrs. Dreoni and her sister realized their company needed a website, and their online store now displays the 8,000 toys they have on their shelves. But personal selling is more satisfying, Ms. Dreoni said.
“Sales online are fine, but they’re cold, no emotions,” she said. “Many people still enjoy touching toys or having an expert explain it. It’s not like buying a pan or a pot.”
The surge in online purchases at this time of year is straining courier services across the country, making life difficult for smaller delivery companies.
Major national and international delivery companies are inundated with online orders from Amazon and other e-commerce sites, said Marco Magli, owner of the ADL SPA Corriere Espresso, a local courier in Bologna. “Every day we have to find out who can help us deliver our goods in Milan or outside the city,” he said. “The market is completely saturated.”
“In the past few years, deliveries started to rise as early as November, whereas before that it was only early December,” confirms Massimo Pedretti, union leader at SDA, a courier company owned by the Italian postal service.
“It’s because of the Black Friday week,” he said.
In Germany, another holiday season cannot escape the pandemic.
Record numbers of new coronavirus cases are dampening the mood of German shoppers in a year when many looked forward to the chance to return to holiday markets and decorated shopping streets.
In Bavaria, the closing of many holiday markets to curb the spread of the virus has proved beneficial for the business of Kunst und Spiel, or Art and Play, a store specializing in German-made wooden toys and games.
“Our customers are happy that we are open,” says Florian Bartsch, who runs the store.
But given the current infection rate, only 50 people are allowed to be in the store in central Munich at a time, he added. And limited stocks hinder sales. “Wooden toys are popular this year, although we are having problems with deliveries,” Bartsch says. “All wholesalers buy them up.”
Deliveries of some locally produced toys are still feeling the effects of the earlier lockdowns, he said, including some items produced at a workshop for the disabled in Germany.
“They were forced to close at the height of the pandemic last year and have only recently returned to full production,” he said. “They are supported by at least nine months.”
Fears that shipping delays will make it harder to find last-minute gifts could boost Black Friday sales by 27 percent from last year, the German retail association HDE said this week.
In early November, the retail association forecast a 2 percent increase in sales for the last two months of the year, based on strong consumer confidence heading into the holiday season. But in the past two weeks, the country has broken one record after another in the number of new infections, forcing authorities to close restaurants, bars and Christmas markets in the eastern and southern states of the country.
At Kunst und Spiel, Mr Bartsch said that sales in the last three months of the year typically make up 70 percent of his annual turnover. After the loss he suffered during the lockdown in 2020, he hopes he can stay open even if it means putting his staff on the extra job of making sure customers are vaccinated, masked and no more than 50 at a time.
“If our sales remain as they are so far, I will be happy,” he said.