Black Friday, the American shopping festivity that broke every record last year in Belgium, is successful but also controversial. Major chains may reap the benefits, but smaller retailers are beginning to resist the endless discounts.
One in two Belgians participate
“Black Friday is Golden Friday for the Belgian retail”, trade federation Comeos claimed last year after a record-breaking edition. This year, the organisation representing large chains anticipates great results as well: "According to payment service Ingenico, 53 % of Belgians plans to go shopping on Black Friday. And almost all retailers plan to participate," says spokesman Hans Cardyn.
The eagerness of store chains and web shops to participate in Black Friday is clear: the one day of large discounts is slowly turning into an event across multiple days. Media Markt recently turned it into a long weekend, lasting from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. Bol.com has already started the festivities at the beginning of the week and Zalando even turned it into an event that lasts a week and a half, coming up with new discounts every day.
‘Wake Up Friday’ for charity
Still, resistance against Black Friday is mounting, especially among smaller businesses. Ghent-based shoe store Walk The Line, for instance, is organising 'Wake Up Friday'. "The constant race from one discount to the next is a bad deal for everyone involved," its owner Freija De Baere says: "Stores that do not participate will lose turnover, and those that do participate give up part of their income. On top of that, there is no more stability left in prices: customers become frustrated when they pay the full amount for a product and then see it displayed at half price later on."
Kids store Blabloom's owner Kim Smeets has had it with what she calls "the ultimate symbol of the consumer culture". "It goes against our values", she adds. Instead of throwing around discounts, both entrepreneurs have independently decided to go for a 'positive' action: their prices go up and the difference is donated to charity.
Clearly, they are not the only ones who frown on Black Friday: a poll among entrepreneurs showed that six out of ten retailers are opting out of Black Friday, because the large number of discount days has detrimental effects on profit margins. Also, it is feared that consumers will be less inclined to buy full price when they can simply postpone purchases to the next discount day. The result: ever more businesses will have to close and there will be a reduced range of products on the market.
‘Buy Nothing Friday’ goes too far
Among consumers, awareness of Black Friday's darker side is growing as well. Some people are using Facebook to promote the idea of keeping their wallets closed this Friday: the so-called Buy Nothing Day was invented by a Canadian as a statement against unbridled consumption. In Europe, it is supported by Greenpeace, among others.
Walk The Line's Freija de Baere thinks Buy Nothing Day goes too far: "By buying nothing, you are also punishing smaller businesses who want to sell sustainable and fair products. I am happy when consumers think about what they choose, instead of buying things they don't need, solely because they get a discount."