No turkey on Thanksgiving in Europe, American expats. (Though a few expat groups and restaurants do host Thanksgiving dinners.) But there’s the definitive American holiday experience, Black Friday, calling to you whether you call Amsterdam, Berlin, Luxembourg City or Frankfurt or another European expat center home.
Thursday, 28 November and Friday, 29 November, are just normal weekdays in Europe while America is celebrating Thanksgiving. Well, they used to be. Starting back in 2015, Europe started buying into the American-style Christmas shopping frenzy with a vengeance, and Black Friday – the day after Thanksgiving – became a thing here almost overnight.
In Europe, only 19 percent of people polled in the United Kingdom by American management company McKinsey & Co. had participated in Black Friday back in 2015 – compared to more than 50 percent by 2017.
Same deal in Germany, with nine percent of consumers surveyed getting involved in 2015 – jumping to 43 percent by 2017.
All that said, one of the major Black Friday complications is that Amazon doesn’t ship all items Europe-wide. See Dispatches latest post here on negotiating Amazon’s national websites.
Also, the camelcamelcamel.com Amazon price tracker is a super-handy tool to figure out Amazon’s inconsistent pan-European pricing models.
So while there is no pumpkin pie or cranberry sauce on your dinner table in Germany, Austria or the Netherlands this Thanksgiving, European retailers are making sure you get the full Black Friday discounting experience.
Most of the sales will be running through “Cyber Monday,” and British shoppers alone are projected to spend about 4.7 billion pounds in total sales, online and bricks-and-mortar. Which is nothing compared to the capital of commercialism, the U.S., where shoppers are projected to spend $87 billion on Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping.
Amazon.de pretty much brought Black Friday to Europe. Now, all brick and mortar shops on the high streets such as Primark, s. Oliver, C&A, Nike and others are participating in stores and online. In Europe, we don’t expect crazy Black Friday crowds all the TV stations show, with American shoppers literally fighting in the aisles trying to get to that giant LED TV at a deep discount.
Expats, your European Black Friday experience might just turn out to be good for the pocket and more pleasant when browsing through the racks.
Let’s go shopping!
AIRLINES & TRAVEL
For 2018, the most aggressive sales were in the travel sector. Almost every major airline including EasyJet, Ryanair, British Airways and KLM had big deals on their respective websites. Or so it seemed.
For 2019, that’s changed with pressure from climate change activists and flight shaming as well as accusations that some of the airlines including Ryanair and easyJet offered “Black Friday discounts” that were no better than rates in the days and weeks following the event.
So this year, the deals are not as sensational, though there are some that got our attention:
• Virgin Atlantic is offering flights to New York from London Heathrow for as little as 260 pounds and you can book here.
• Ryanair has an entire landing page dedicated to Black Friday deals, though the airlines doesn’t seem to be as aggressive as last year after some of their deals were found to be just regular fares. Still, Ryanair is advertising 25 percent off on 1 million seats for 2019.
• British Airways will offer deals the day of, but they aren’t posted yet. BA also has some special offers to fly Brits to Europe’s Christmas markets … maybe for the final season before they need visas.
• Skyscanner has a running list of travel offers.
• Forbes Mag has a great overview post about all the Black Friday hotel deals in Europe and the United States that include Rosewood Hotels offering up to 35 percent off stays and a $100 credit to use for spas or whatever at its hotels around the world.
• Cruise lines are also jumping on the Black Friday crazy, with deals just now coming online.
Of course, as with all of life, it’s caveat emptor … make sure those deals are really a deal.
On the retail side, it looks like eBay is out of the gate first in 2019 with a series of “Friday Drops” specials leading up to Black Friday, then all the way to 13 December, according to Business Insider.
• ZDNet has the best aggregated list of Amazon deals – along with a schedule of when they happen – for 2019 including Fire and Echo devices, as well as TVs, laptops and Bose music hardware.
• The Telegraph has a guide to the best tech products expected to be on sale including the latest smart phones.
If you have subscribed to the newsletters of your favorite retailers in Europe, you were greeted recently with 20-percent off or 30-percent off Black Friday discounts in your inbox to make sure you don’t miss them … even if you somehow missed the big Black Friday promotions in shops in downtown shopping streets or your favorite shopping center.
• Of course, not every “deal” is a good deal. So MarketWatch has an excellent post that sorts the wheat from the chaff. Stuff to buy includes Apple Watches and electronics. Stuff to avoid includes toys because they tend to get heavily discounted just before Christmas.
As with last year, smart TVs, drones and the next-gen Amazon Echo are all big sellers for 2019. Eurogamer has a good post about Microsoft’s Xbox Black Friday deals.
Here’s a curated list of crazy savings from Black Friday sales in Europe:
• How low can they go? Dozens of fashion outlets centers around Europe discount everything from high-end brands such as Burberry and Zegna to mid-range staples such as Polo and Nike.
Now, for the first time (at least that we’ve noticed), the McArthurGlen outlet centers are having Black Friday sales. Designer Outlet Roermond in the south of the Netherlands between Eindhoven and Maastricth just sent us an email stating their sale will run from 29 November to 1 December.
It appears each store is offering its own sales, with discounts between 20 percent and 65 percent. Coach, for example, is in the 40 percent category, discounting all its stock. Michael Kors is offering 65 percent off “on selected items.”
Most of the 130 shops have some sort of discount, and hours have been extended from 8 a.m. to midnight. All 24 McArthurGlen outlet centers from Austria to Greece are doin’ the Black Friday thang.
One word of caution … our experience with Roermond is that it’s always crowded. With these kinds of sales this close to Christmas, expect an experience that’s cra-cra. And not in a good way.
• As we mentioned above, Amazon is having big Black Friday sales, though you might not be able to get stuff delivered if you live outside Germany. Amazon is having daily deals that go live each morning as well as Lightning Deals just so you never leave their website.
• Ingolstadt, Germany-based MediaMarkt is the big electronics retailer in much of Europe. Surprise, they’re blowing it out!
• Zalando – the Berlin-based e-commerce giant that covers most of Western Europe and Scandinavia
• de Bijenkorf in the Netherlands is very chi-chi, an elegant shopping experience in the analog world, but the bargains are digital.
• Dutch e-commerce discounter Cool Blue hasn’t posted its Black Friday deals, but here’s the landing page for when they do.
• H&M, ASOS and Zara – all the Scandi/Spanish fast-fashion apparel retailers, really – have huge on-line Black Friday sales. And don’t bother going to the stores … their all about e-commerce in 2019. The Telegraph’s 2019 Black Friday fashion post is pretty good, with bargains from H&M, Zara, Gap and the rest. But you have to vote for Boris Johnson to get the discounts. (We’re kidding … you know that, right?)
• Mango is one of the few retailers that’s taken the time to stand up a dedicated Black Friday landing page. But you have to subscribe to their newsletter to get the prices.
The Black Friday backstory
Black Friday historically comes from the 1960s in the United States when retailers wanted to increase their revenue, inventing the Black Friday concept. It’s called “Black Friday” because the all-important Christmas season marks the point retailers generally reach profitability for the year, and bookkeepers enter positive revenue and returns into ledgers in black numbers. (Losses, of course, are recorded in red numbers.)
Black Friday was introduced in Europe several years ago by businesses who wanted to copy the successful model of American retailers. It has been gaining in popularity and is becoming an established business practice.
In Europe, Seattle-based Amazon is really pushing the concept of Black Friday into the consumers’ consciousness, an effort by the giant e-tailer that dates back to 2010. Throw enough marketing behind something and guess what … Black Friday has actually caught on in France and Britain in the seven years since they started.