Sunday, November 28

Black Friday has begun, a hope for stores seeking customers

Broken prices and first Christmas shopping: Black Friday promotions have started, a week before the traditional date. Merchants are counting on the operation to find their customers after a difficult year, but uncertainties remain, especially due to the Covid.

Coming from the United States, Black Friday is traditionally held on the Friday following the Thanksgiving holiday Thursday, November 26 this year.

In France, it is not a period of sales: sellers are prohibited from selling at a loss and giving the impression that the price reductions are comparable to that of the sales. This does not prevent you from finding discounts of -40% on coffee machines or -50% on phones and cameras.

The operation has become widely accepted in France in recent years, driven in particular by large online sellers like Amazon.

But e-merchants are not the only ones to benefit from it. “Physical stores probably represent between two thirds and three quarters of the total turnover of Black Friday”, estimates with AFP Guy-Noël Chatelin, specialist in consumption at the firm EY.

Last year, they coordinated, with government support, to postpone the operation to early December, to await the reopening of stores after confinement.

This time, containment does not seem to be on the agenda, despite the fifth wave of Covid. The traders nevertheless fear the health pass, which can be made compulsory by decision of the prefects depending on the health situation.

Another uncertainty: that of possible shortages, due to supply difficulties from Asia.

“The players who have less stock will not rush to sell off, and will rather prefer to sell at a correct price”, assures Emmanuel Le Roch, general delegate of the Federation for the promotion of specialized trade (Procos).

– More early Christmas shopping? –

But alarmist speeches could also act in favor of traders. “The fear of running out and the fear of being stuck again should push consumers to do their Christmas shopping early, starting on Black Friday. So I think we can expect a good fortnight in terms of numbers” , observes Gontran Thüring, General Delegate of the National Council of Shopping Centers (CNCC).

“A good fortnight”, because Black Friday is in fact diluted in the midst of the many offers of reductions: in France, it lasts about a week. Some such as Fnac-Darty, La Redoute, H&M or even CDiscount and Amazon have already started. It also comes just after the Singles Day on November 11, or “Double 11”, a promotional event from China that is needed in the country.

It remains to be seen whether the French will go to stores: with the pandemic, many of them have taken up e-commerce, shunning physical stores, especially shopping centers.

Since the start of the year, Procos has observed a 10% drop in the activity of specialized stores compared to the first ten months of 2019.

“There is really a + cannibalization + of the sales of physical stores through online sales,” says Françis Palombi, president of the Confederation of French traders, which represents the independents. He believes that promotional operations like Black Friday are not a solution to find customers, and even encourages his members to boycott him.

In the end, it is the large brands present both in stores and online that should benefit the most from the operation.

And even if store attendance does not return to its pre-crisis level, retailers should be able to count on higher shopping baskets. “This is what we have observed since the Covid crisis: consumers travel less, but buy more”, indicates Emmanuel Le Roch.

After 2020 holidays shaken by the virus, the whole sector hopes that the French will decide to have fun, and to spend the savings accumulated during the confinements.

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