Already (and keep in mind they’re five hours behind), Americans are storming Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Macy's (and a whole lot of small, independent shops too) to snag the best Christmas deals of the season. It’s Black Friday- the biggest shopping day of the year in the States, when stores open ‘early’ and offer huge discounts on otherwise pricy, luxury goods. Unlike the Brits, who started looking forward to Christmas post-Halloween, Americans had to at least pretend they weren’t listening to Bing Crosby on their iPods until the day after Thanksgiving; and now, with less than a month till Christmas day, shoppers will spend well over $1billion today alone to make up for their tireless waiting.
Over the past few years, this all-you-can-shop American trend has spilled over to the UK, with Amazon, Apple and Wal-Mart’s Asda taking the charge to bring discounts, up to 70%, to British consumers. Still in its early phases of becoming any kind of British tradition, the demand from customers for these kinds of deals continues to sky-rocket; last year, according to Visa’s estimate, £1million was spent on its cards every three minutes, and it’s expected this year’s charges will be up 22%.
However, this year, the day is expected to be even busier. Black Friday 2014, scheduled for November 28, should be the biggest online shopping day ever in the UK.
Christopher North, managing director of Amazon.co.uk, said: “Black Friday took an incredible leap forward in 2013 with so many more customers taking advantage of the great deals on that day, resulting in sales of over 4m items for the very first time in our history.
“This year, we are offering more deals and savings than ever before and we are expecting record numbers to benefit from Black Friday Deals Week.”
Some take a moral stance against Black Friday, arguing that it promotes consumerism and unnecessary purchases; and some in the UK have gone so far as to say it defies British identity, as Black Friday has, until recently, been a post-Thanksgiving, US tradition.
It seems almost too obvious to point out that the the millions of pounds that will be spent in the UK today are a huge boost to business; benefiting not only businesses and their employees, but the customers themselves who are able to buy electronics and goods they could not otherwise afford at hugely discounted prices. It's all very well to claim the moral high-ground on consumerism if you and your family want for nothing; but for many customers, necessities in the digital age (like computers and phones for their kids) aren't accessible at their normal prices.
As for British identity - Black Friday is far too new to the UK for us to know how it–as a sales pitch or as a tradition–will play out in the future. Under no circumstances should Britain adopt the crazy shop-till-you-drop celebrations if it doesn't want to; but no one can deny the huge, and ever-growing, demand from British consumers for the Black Friday tradition. And as long as there's demand, let the rush commence.