Fair of good deals or symbol of overconsumption and commercialism? Black Friday divides. And sparks local and solidarity initiatives.
We must admit, at L’Echo, we did not immediately feel the blow coming. “It is not tomorrow the day before that the Belgian consumer will be able to take advantage of” the “deals” of Black Friday, wrote your favorite daily newspaper in November 2014. Bad prognosis. This purely American tradition of consumerist fever after Thanksgiving, which then landed in Europe, took only two years to take up residence with us.
“Black Friday” mayonnaise (nicknamed so because it symbolizes the change from red – negative – to black – positive – in traders’ accounts) quickly took hold on this side of the Atlantic, including in Belgium.
Figures in Belgium
With a delay, the Belgians also started hunting for bargains. Black Friday in Belgium is 137.5 million euros spent in 2019 and 126 million in 2020. A slight decline undoubtedly due mainly to the health crisis.
For this year, the uncertainties related to inflation and the availability of certain items shouldn’t prevent American consumers from opening their wallets wide. Traders, who have had no trouble selling their stocks at the start of the school year or on Halloween, are preparing for a new shopping spree this Friday.
More and more stigmatized
In Europe, the prognosis is more difficult to establish. Because Black Friday divides. More and more. Especially since, not content with promoting overconsumption, this kind of commercial operation causes increasingly serious environmental nuisances. Example: For the Singles Day of November 11, Alibaba, the Chinese e-commerce giant, had chartered 3,000 planes and freighters and more than 850 trains.
“Our goal is to make the public aware of the economic, social and environmental impact of their purchases.”
“Like all holidays that give rise to business operations, Black Friday is the subject of growing stigma. More and more distributors reject it by proclaiming their wish not to participate, “explains Pierre-Alexandre Billiet, CEO of Gondola.
This is the case of Kiabi, the French ready-to-wear company present in Belgium since 2012. Like last year, it will not participate in Black Friday and will organize solidarity actions. “In Belgium, we will offer 0.50 euros to Restos du Cœur for each transaction carried out in store or on Kiabi.be on November 26 and 27. We are committed to offering a minimum of 1,000 meals“, explains Doriane Magnus, Marketing Manager at Kiabi Belgium.
A little green …
Circular and solidarity economy companies give other colors to the last Friday in November. Make way for “Green Friday”, created in 2017 in France and organized since 2019 in Wallonia and Brussels by Ressources, the Federation of Social and Circular Enterprises.
“We want to make the general public aware of the economic, social and environmental impact of their purchases”, explains Franck Kerckhof, spokesperson for Resources. The 170 stores of the federation (Les Petits Riens, Oxfam …) will therefore carry out this Friday awareness actions for local and solidarity purchasing, second hand, repair.
The chain of stores Fox & Cie (21 stores), which has already participated in “Green Friday”, will abstain, on the other hand, this year. “We prefer to focus on concrete actions by investing in quality toys and customer advice. And we have established from the creation of Fox a partnership with ASBL Arc-en-Ciel, for which we are organizing a toy drive that works very well, ”explains Frédéric Henrotte, CEO and co-founder of the brand.
… and blue
In the age of e-commerce, the big winners in the Black Friday shopping fever are the e-commerce giants. Faced with this tsunami, smaller platforms united to launch the “Blue Friday” at the initiative of Javry, a Brussels SME that sells fair trade coffee.
“Black Friday is a reflection of a form of societal schizophrenia, which has always existed.”
“We should in principle repeat the operation this year. It consists of therefore donate 10% of our Friday income to the environmental association Natagora“, says Maxence Lacroix, co-founder and co-manager of Javry. On the basis of past experience, the operation allows the company to double its orders.
The proliferation of initiatives “parallel” to Black Friday could lead one to believe that it is on the way to decline. Nothing is less sure. “Black Friday is reflection of a form of schizophrenia in society, which has always existed. People want to buy more locally, more ethically, but few of them dress locally, ”says Pierre-Alexandre Billiet.
Disruptions in the supply chain
This year is also marked by major disruptions in the logistics chain. Soaring energy and container prices, traffic jams in ports, shortage of electronic chips, Chinese economy growth failuree: so many ingredients that boost uncertainties in the delivery of orders.
“In this context of shortage, which particularly affects toys, electronic games and bicycles, we are entitled to wonder if Black Friday is still welcome a few days before Saint Nicholas. When the patient suffers from economic arrhythmia, an electric shock such as Black Friday is not the ideal solution “, underlines Pierre-Alexandre Billiet.
One thing is certain: video game consoles (PlayStation 5, Nintendo) will not overflow the shelves. But in this case, the problem goes back several months.
Whether in toys or electronic equipment, the big players do not seem to fear the risk of a shortage. A Mediamarkt or a Dreamland, for example, say they have taken in time to ensure sufficient stocks for St. Nicholas and Christmas. The electronics store chain Selexion, which distributed 2.2 million flyers for Black Friday, evokes, for its part, a problem more “persistent” than acute.
From one-off supply failures will be inevitable. “The store is full but we don’t always have the first choice. When it comes to placing last minute orders, a good half of the toys are out of stock”, says Anne-Françoise Hermann, manager of the Cornebidouille toy store. in Sombreffe.
One thing is certain: video game consoles (PlayStation 5, Nintendo) will not overflow the shelves. But in this case, the problem goes back several months. There are also problems with the delivery of Christmas decorations.
“For most small businesses, this day puts pressure on prices that they would happily do without.”
Anticipation of purchases
In general, the shock of Black Friday is little appreciated by small players, who in some cases feel compelled to participate. “For most small businesses, this day has a pressure on prices which they would gladly do without, especially since November is a good month for winter collection sales, for example, “explains Thierry Evens, spokesperson for the Union des Classes Moyennes (UCM).
“We can not afford big discounts 15 days before Saint-Nicolas, a full period that allows us to fill the boxes before the January sales,” confirms Anne-Françoise Hermann.
The federal government has given the green light to a bill that will force companies to quote the lowest price applied in the period of at least 30 days before the reduction.
On the side of the Neutral Union for Self-Employed, there are also fears that the shortages will push customers to anticipate their purchases as much as possible to be sure to find what they want. “This may have a negative impact on the offer during sales”, specifies Olivier Maüen, spokesperson for the SNI.
Beware of misleading promotions
For die-hards, Black Friday is nevertheless an opportunity to get one or the other good deal. But beware of hidden defects. Like every year, Test-Achats has launched a hunt for false or misleading promotions. They are not lacking.
Stricter rules on the indication of price reductions will come into effect in 2022. The federal government has given the green light to a bill that will force companies to indicate the lowest price applied during the period of at least 30 days preceding the reduction.
One in two Belgians ready to take advantage of Black Friday
This is the story of the glass half empty or half full. One in two Belgians (51% exactly) hears take advantage of Black Friday to buy at a good price (36%) and to anticipate your Christmas shopping (22%), reveals a survey by Mondial Relay, the European leader in e-commerce parcel distribution.
It is both a little and a lot. “One in two Belgians is still huge, especially when you know that Black Friday primarily serves the major players in online commerce “, remarks Thierry Evens, of the Union of the middle classes (UCM). In fact: an overwhelming majority of respondents plan to place their orders primarily with Amazon (37%), Bol.com (36%), Zalando (18%), Media Markt (18%) and Coolblue (12%).
This survey, carried out at the end of October among 1,073 Belgians, confirms the the inexorable rise of online commerce. Only a few die-hards (4%) plan to do their shopping only in-store. The others plan to combine their shopping online and in-store (61%) depending on the item or buy only online (35%).
In their packages, we will find mainly clothing (50%), electronic products (43%), sporting and leisure articles (28%), articles for the home and decoration (26%) and beauty products and well-being (24%). Almost three-quarters (73%) of Black Friday followers have set a budget. If they stick to it (which remains to be seen), 69% are expected to keep their spending below 500 euros. The remaining 4% plan to spend more.
- Launched in 2016 in Belgium, Black Friday has brought in 126 million euros in 2020.
- Source of overconsumption and increasingly heavy environmental pollution, Black Friday, the cash cow of e-commerce giants, uniforms.
- More and more companies refrain from participating, and others are launching more local and solidarity-based initiatives.
- If the decline of Black Friday is not for tomorrow, the 2021 edition will be impacted by supply chain disruptions (health crisis, soaring energy prices, shortages).
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