How the French have fallen for America’s ‘Black Friday’ shopping bonanza

The French are set to splash their hard-earned cash this week as a survey revealed the US-inspired shopping bonanza Black Friday has well and truly taken off in France.

How the French have fallen for America's 'Black Friday' shopping bonanza
photo: AFP

French shoppers will spend around €845 million online and €4.5 billion in shops this weekend, according to the study.

The reason for so much cash being splashed around is Black Friday, the shopping phenomenon imported from the US, which sees stores offer massive discounts to shoppers the day after Thanksgiving Thursday, which is on November 23rd.

Black Friday was launched in France five years ago but took a while to take off with many French consumers, who are used to the traditional January and summer sales periods, left a little confused by the offers of huge discounts in late November.

“C'est Quoi Black Friday?” (What's Black Friday?) has been the headline of many newspaper articles each November which try to explain the event to the French public.

And previous years' surveys revealed the French didn't know what Black Friday was — perhaps the English name didn't help matters. 

But in 2017 it looks to have well and truly taken off and since then has become a feature in the French consumer calendar alongside the traditional January and Summer sales, albeit after a slow start.

A quick look at the website of any big French retail store like Darty or FNAC reveals that Black Friday or the “Big Weekend” (because it's more than just one day now) is certainly now an event in France. In fact it's almost a “Black Week” given the discounts are already being offered as an “avant premiere”.

According to a report by the Centre for Retail Research, online spending in France this Black Friday will be up 15 percent on last year and up four percent in shops.

The survey revealed 65 percent of French people now see Black Friday as the starting gun for traditional Christmas shopping.

And a survey by the CSA institute in France revealed that in 2016, 21 percent of French people wanted to make the most of Black Friday and in 2017 that figure has risen to 52 percent. However another survey by Fevad, a federation for internet shopping some 69 percent of French people will get their credit cards out this week with an average spend of €187.

“We are going to offer a selection of 20,000 premium items with the promotions renewed every five minutes,” Frederic Duval, the director general of Amazon France told AFP.

Emmanuel Grenier president of Cdiscount stressed how important Black Friday or the Big Weekend was to retail firms.

“It's just about marketing. This week will be our best takings for the whole year,” he said.

General manager of the group LDLC (high-tech products), Olivier de la Clergerie, said: “The success [of Black Friday] is dazzling, we can no longer ignore it.”

French shopping culture – always more subdued than in the more consumerist “Anglo-Saxon” countries – is framed by the two sales periods authorized by the law – summer and January.

The main rules shops have to stick to on Black Friday is that the are not allowed to make loss-making sales, usually through crazy discounts of up to 90 percent. That is basically the same rule they have to stick to outside the two designated sales periods.

And companies in France are also less likely anyway to offer the kind of crazy discounts that have prompted riots in the US in the past.

But Black Friday hasn't gone down well with everyone in France.

Emery Jacquillat, the CEO of Camif, which sells home furniture online has called for a boycott and will lead the way himself by “closing” his website on Friday.


‘Harryhandel’: Is the return of cross-border shopping in Norway really a good thing? 

The pandemic cut-off Norway from its neighbours, putting a temporary end to border shopping. Now ‘harryhandel’ trips are allowed again businesses in the country fear they will lose out as shoppers look abroad for cheaper groceries. 

Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge.
Will the return of border shopping have a negative affect on the country? Pictured is Norway and Sweden's border on the old Svinesund bridge. Photo by Petter Bernsten/AFP.

In eastern Norway, particularly along the border with Sweden, cross-border shopping has long been common for residents looking for cheaper groceries and a better selection of products. 

Norway’s Covid-19 rules effectively put a stop to that until this summer. The closed border meant a record year for food and beverage sales in Norway. 

“Due to the fact that there was little action and that people did not travel, we noticed that our sales increased greatly during the entire period,” Øyvind Berg, production manager at Norwegian dairy firm Synnøve Finden, explained to public broadcaster NRK.

Now producers and supermarkets fear the impact of cross-border shopping being up and running again. 

“Our challenge is that we see that more than half of the food and beverage producers, i.e. the industrial companies, fear that they will lose market share because cross-border trade will return in full,” Petter Brubakk, director of food and beverage at the Confederation of Norwegian Enterprise (NHO), informed NRK. 

The majority of those who go shopping across borders in Norway will do so in Sweden. However, in the north, some will also venture into Finland or Russia.

Further south people will also travel to Germany or Denmark. 

Why do people go to other countries for shopping? 

Overall the main appeal of cross-border shopping is that its much better for consumers than shopping domestically. 

Norway’s EEA agreement with the EU means that most foods, drinks, tobacco products, alcohol and other agricultural products are more expensive than they are within the EU as custom duties are required to import them into Norwegian supermarkets. 

Not just that, but there is a much wider selection of products than in Norway due to laws that protect Norwegian products. For example, cheeses such as Cheddar are more readily available, cheaper and generally of better quality in other countries than those found in Norway. 

READ MORE: What is ‘harryhandel’, and why do Norwegians love it so much?

Is border shopping a bad thing for Norway?

Norwegian businesses argue that crossing the border to shop affects the whole value chain, negatively impacting everyone from Norwegian farms and producers to supermarket employees, not just companies profit margins. 

“My advice is to encourage Norwegians to buy Norwegian food, and help secure Norwegian jobs throughout the value chain,” food and agriculture minister Sandra Borch told NRK. 

In addition, shopping domestically means more tax revenue for the Norwegian system to use to fund its generous welfare state. 

While shopping domestically protects domestic jobs, shopping abroad protects jobs there, which rely on people hopping the border to get their groceries. 

Coronavirus pandemic restrictions left a black hole in some of these economies reliant on shoppers from the Norwegian side of the border. For example, in Strömstad, a Swedish town close to the border where many travel to shop, unemployment rose by around 75 percent after Norway closed its borders with Sweden.