American shopping culture spreads to Denmark

Black Friday is back II

Black Friday was the biggest sales day ever in Denmark, which is a clear indication that the Danes have fully adopted the American tradition of shopping on Friday after the 4th Thursday of October.

The tradition of Black Friday kicking off the holiday shopping season with great deals from retailers and customers shopping like on no other day of the year, originates from the US. Originally, the term “Black Friday” referred to the chaotic and congested traffic conditions on the day after Thanksgiving, but later it was given another interpretation as the day when shops’ accounting numbers go from red to black.

The tradition of shopping in the Thanksgiving Holiday has existed for several decades and is still alive and well. However a number of new trends seem to be emerging. As these might be imported to Denmark in the coming years, let us take a look at them before getting into the record breaking numbers of this year’s Danish Black Friday.

US Trends

As always, the Thanksgiving weekend, including Thanksgiving Day, Black Friday, small business Saturday, and yet-to-be-named Sunday, attracted hordes of customers to both retail- and online stores. According to a National Retail Foundation survey, 151 million people shopped online and/or in stores over the weekend, with online shopping surpassing the low-tech alternative measured in customers. On average, each customer spent $300 over the weekend with 33% of customers shopping consumer electronics.

Including Cyber Monday (marketing term for the Monday after Thanksgiving Weekend), Adobe estimates total online Thanksgiving sales to reach $11B. Online shopping was so intensive on Cyber Monday that some of the big retailers, such as Target were unable to handle the immense web traffic generated on this day, which resulted in web shop down time.

Cyber Monday, which is now a bigger online sales day than Black Friday, got its name from the online deals and shopping that characterize this day and is a good example of an important trend in American holiday shopping. The good deals are no longer exclusively to be had on Black Friday, but are spread out across a much longer period.

Whereas Black Friday used to kick start holiday shopping,  there are now talks of “Black November” and “Cyber Week”. This seems to indicate not only semantics but that Black Friday is losing some of its importance as holiday sales are being spread out over longer periods of time. In fact, Black Friday sales has decreased the last couple of years.

Time will show how these developments play out and whether we’ll have to come to terms with “Black November”, but for now let’s take a look at how the Danes have taken on the American tradition.

Danish Black Friday

November 30th, Black Friday, was the biggest sales day to date in Denmark. Eager Danes waited in line outside shops in the freezing weather to get their hands on the best deals. Traffic went black with so many people on the roads in the middle of the night, and several of the major web shops broke down. 40,000 online customers waited in line to get into the retailer Bilka’s web shop, and the price comparison site Pricerunner had 220.000 visitors within the first couple of hours on Black Friday. It turned out to be both the biggest sales day offline and online with total sales of DKK 2B from 5.5M transactions, which is quite a lot considering the size of the Danish population.

The numbers are even more impressive given that Black Friday has only existed in Denmark for the last five years and had its big breakthrough in 2013. From 2012 to 2014 Black Friday sales increased by 495% on 23 major web shops.

What is interesting compared to the US is that in Denmark, Black Friday began as an online event and only this year did retailers really jump on-board. This is the direct opposite development compared to the US, where online shopping is just now beginning to get a lot of traction.

One might wonder if general holiday sales patterns in Denmark will also follow a different direction than in the US. In Denmark, holiday sales have historically been spread out through November and December but might become more concentrated with the adoption of Black Friday at the same time that US holiday sales are spreading out. If that is the case, it might signal that even though Denmark adopts certain US traditions and sales patterns, they are being adapted to the Danish context.

It will be interesting to see how Black Friday evolves in the coming years and whether Denmark will have a Cyber Week or Black November. What is already certain is that discounted sales events are no longer just biannual events in Denmark but something that takes place several times throughout the year.

Maybe both the US and Denmark will be impacted by the disruptive sales event “Single’s Day”, which was invented by the Chinese company Alibaba and reached sales of $14.3B on November 11th?

Where holidays end and shopping events start seem to be increasingly difficult to predict.

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