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Dec 13, 2016

Can Black Friday reshape the European toy market?

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Black Friday is not a tradition in Europe.

In fact, it makes no cultural sense. We do not celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a working day. We do not rise at dawn to shop the Friday after Thanksgiving. It is a working day.

“What is Black Friday?” my mother asked me this year. “Explain it to me.”

Fair question.

But even though it makes no sense, Black Friday has become an event in Europe. It’s just a different event. Not only is it often called Black Friday in English, rather than, say, Vendredi Noir, but confusingly, it often doesn’t refer to a Friday at all. In the U.S., Thanksgiving falls on the fourth Thursday in November, and Black Friday is specifically the day after. Here in Europe, we have Black Friday weekend sales or even Black Friday week sales.

Still, the concept seems to be catching on. More and more European retailers are participating, and some are reporting increased shopping. Argos, the largest retailer for toys in the U.K., reported that online sales were up 50% over Black Friday 2015.

And that raises some interesting questions for the European toy market. In the U.S., Black Friday is traditionally known as the day that retailers start to turn a profit (hence the name, as they move from red ink to black ink). It is the day that kicks off the holiday shopping season, with toys a huge part of that. Could Black Friday do the same in Europe?

If so, it could spread out toy sales over more weeks, which could be a particular boon in markets where consumers are known to shop at the last minute, such as Spain. This would not only help retailers resupply, which is impossible in a last-minute rush, but could it also increase the actual market size? With more weeks spent shopping, might people actually buy more?

Or could it delay consumers even further as they wait for the massive discounts before starting their holiday shopping and reduce market size as a result?

In the U.S., big-ticket items and electronics do particularly well on Black Friday. Might Black Friday change the mix of toys bought in Europe? Already, electronics retailers such as Currys PC World are reporting Black Friday sales in Europe up 40% over 2015.

And then there’s me. I shopped on Black Friday. I spent more than I planned on gifts for my children, but I also got more than I expected. I’m much poorer, but I’m a happy shopper. The data seems to indicate that I’m not alone.



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