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Black Friday News: An Unpredictable Holiday Shopping Season Begins

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Credit…Henry Nicholls/Reuters

LONDON — There may be no Thanksgiving feast or long holiday weekend on this side of the Atlantic, but that isn’t stopping Europeans from flocking to shopping streets and online sales in search of good deals.

Black Friday started catching on in Europe years ago, with one-day sales focused on electronics and home appliances. These days, companies view it as one of the biggest days of the retail calendar, with discounts across the board, on clothing, food, theater tickets, holiday travel packages and the like. Sales in Britain often last the entire month of November, as people react to discounts by pulling their holiday shopping forward.

Still, this holiday season for European businesses — usually a huge part of annual revenues — may 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. Many imported goods have become more expensive because of the weaker pound and euro compared with the dollar.

Those pressures may push shoppers to focus their purchases on Friday. Jessica Distler, a partner and managing director of Boston Consulting Group in Berlin and an author of a recent report on Black Friday, said that economic concerns are likely to drive European consumers to do more shopping on Black Friday to get the best bargains.

“There is more focus on promotional offers because you have that anxiety and you have less budget to spend,” she said.

European consumers said their spending would be down this year compared with last, according to the Boston Consulting Group’s survey of more than 7,000 consumers in Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland and Britain. The survey, which also polled more than 2,000 consumers in Australia and the United States, found that only U.S. consumers said they planned to increase their spending from last year.

In Britain, on average, consumers said they expected to spend 18 percent less on holiday shopping than last year, as they cut back on nonessential items because of price increases, the survey found.

Even as its popularity has grown, Black Friday shopping in Europe has lacked the same frenetic energy as in the United States, said Tom Holder, the spokesman for the British Retail Consortium, the trade association for British retailers.

“There was never that sort of American-style, we’re holding back the doors and everyone charges in,” Mr. Holder said. “A few stores might have managed to get that, but it wasn’t that, ‘Let’s go absolutely nuts,’ type thing.”

In Britain, where the annual inflation rate topped 11 percent in October, there are already signs that this holiday season could be disappointing for retailers. Retail sales volumes (excluding automotive fuel) were down 6.7 percent last month, compared with October last year, according to a report published last week by Britain’s Office for National Statistics.

Black Friday comes as businesses in Europe are also plagued with staff shortages and have had to raise wages to attract staff. Three-quarters of British companies have been hit by labor shortages in the past year, according to a survey of 325 firms published last month by the Confederation of British Industry, a trade association. Nearly half of companies affected are unable to meet customer demands, the study found.

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