PARIS — People don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in France, or Russia, or South Africa – but they do shop on Black Friday.
The U.S. sales phenomenon has spread to retailers across the world in recent years with such force that it’s prompting a backlash from some activists, politicians and even consumers.
Near Paris, climate demonstrators blocked a shopping mall and gathered in from of Amazon’s headquarters to protest over-production they say is killing the planet. Workers at Amazon in Germany went on strike for better pay. Some French lawmakers want to ban Black Friday altogether.
Consumer rights groups in Britain and some other countries say retailers use Black Friday as a slogan to lure in shoppers, but it’s not always clear how real or big the discounts are. Other critics say it hurts small businesses.
Globalized commerce has brought U.S. consumer tastes to shoppers around the world, from Halloween candy to breakfast cereal and peanut butter, sometimes even supplanting local traditions.
To French activists, Black Friday is the epitome of this shift, a purely commercial event designed to boost U.S. retailers ahead of the Christmas holidays, the symbol of capitalism run amok.
“The planet burns, oceans die, and we still want to consume, consume, and therefore produce, produce – until we eradicate all living things? … We will not betray our children for a 30% discount!” reads a manifesto by groups holding “Block Friday” protests around Paris.
In Britain, where the big winter sales have traditionally been held on the day after Christmas, companies have adopted Black Friday marketing campaigns since about 2010. After a rise in business on the day in the first years, the volume of shopping has leveled off, with most of it happening online over multiple days.
Research by a U.K. consumer association found that 61% of goods advertised in Black Friday deals last year were cheaper or about the same price both before and after the event.
That echoes similar warnings in other countries. Russia’s consumer watchdog published detailed tips on how to avoid getting fooled, like checking whether prices were raised before Friday to make deals look good or whether delivery costs are inflated.
The Black Friday advertising push has extended beyond the one day to Cyber Monday, with retailers in several countries spreading them across what’s often called “Black Week.”