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Black Friday News: An Unexpected Christmas Shopping Season Begins – The New York Times

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Customers on Oxford Street in London. Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

LONDON – There may not be a Thanksgiving feast or a long holiday weekend on this side of the Atlantic, but that hasn’t stopped Europeans from hitting the high street and online stores for good deals.

Black Friday started gaining a foothold in Europe years ago, with one-day sales focused on electronics and home appliances. Today, companies consider it one of the biggest days of the retail calendar, with discounts on clothing, food, theater tickets, holiday travel packages and the like. Sales in the UK often run throughout November as people respond to discounts by continuing their Christmas shopping.

But for European companies, this holiday period – usually a large part of annual sales – can be less of a bonanza than usual. With rising energy costs, mortgage payments and retail prices, consumers have less money to spend on holiday gifts. The weakening of the pound and the euro against the dollar has made many imported goods more expensive.

That pressure may prompt shoppers to focus their purchases on Fridays. Economic concerns are driving European consumers to shop more on Black Friday to get the best deals, says Jessica Distler, partner and managing director at Boston Consulting Group in Berlin and author of a recent report on Black Friday.

“Promotional offers get more attention because you have that concern and you have less budget to spend,” she said.

European consumers said they would spend less this year than last year, according to a Boston Consulting Group survey of more than 7,000 consumers in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. The survey, which also surveyed more than 2,000 consumers in Australia and the United States, found that only US consumers said they planned to increase their spending from last year.

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The survey found that, on average, consumers in the UK said they expect to spend 18 percent less on Christmas shopping than last year as they cut back on non-essential items due to price increases.

While Black Friday’s popularity has grown, shopping in Europe on Black Friday lacks the same frenetic energy as in the United States, said Tom Holder, a spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, the trade association for British retailers.

“It’s never been American style. We close the doors and everybody comes in,” Holder said. “Some stores may have managed to get their hands on it, but it wasn’t like ‘Let’s go all crazy’.”

In the UK, where annual inflation topped 11 percent in October, there are already signs that this holiday season could be bleak for retailers. According to a report published last week by the UK’s Office for National Statistics, the volume of retail sales (excluding car fuel) was 6.7 percent lower last month than in October last year.

Black Friday comes as companies in Europe are also facing staff shortages and have had to raise wages to attract workers. Three-quarters of UK businesses have been hit by labor shortages in the past year, according to a survey of 325 companies published last month by the UK industry association. The survey found that nearly half of affected businesses were unable to meet customer demands.

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