Spain embraces Black Friday

Stores sign up en masse for US-imported sale day, though its business impact is still unclear

A sign for a Black Friday sale in a store on Madrid’s Gran Vía.
A sign for a Black Friday sale in a store on Madrid’s Gran Vía.Samuel Sanchez

Spanish retailers have enthusiastically embraced Black Friday, a concept with no tradition in the country and of which few Spaniards were aware until recently.

It was only three years ago that a small group of Spanish stores first decided to introduce the idea of a pre-Christmas sale day of the kind held in the US after Thanksgiving. Last year, they were joined by some of the country’s largest retailers, including department store chain El Corte Inglés, fashion giant Mango and several brands in the Inditex group – the parent company of clothing chain Zara.

Sales have lost a bit of their attractiveness because now stores hold them whenever they want”

Florencio Delgado, head of the Downtown Madrid Retailer Federation

This year, every major chain is holding a Black Friday – so named because US businesses would traditionally see their accounts go from red to black on the back of booming sales that day – as are online retailers and even some small neighborhood stores. In fact, many outlets will be extending the sales to Monday.

With discounts offered on everything from computers to legs of jamón, it remains to be seen whether the increasingly popular event will be profitable to Spanish businesses.

This week has seen the release of several conflicting studies on the subject. The most optimistic was commissioned by electrical retail chain Worten, and states that 83 percent of Spaniards know what Black Friday is, and that 54 percent plan to buy something in the sale. The survey was only conducted among online respondents.

Online retailer Amazon said it was getting ready for record sales on Friday.
Online retailer Amazon said it was getting ready for record sales on Friday.Alvaro Garcia (EL PAÍS)

The Digital Economy Association of Spain (Adigital) estimated that online sales between November 27 and 30 would be in the region of €1.2 billion.

In Madrid, there is a paradox: while most large stores are signing up to Black Friday, the Spanish Trade Confederation (COCEM) admits that the capital is one of the cities where fewer small and medium establishments are following the trend.

And then there are those shops where tradition is much stronger than trends.

“Our customers are not the type to come shopping on that kind of a day, so we don’t do discounts,” explained the store managers at Santarrufina, which has been selling religious memorabilia since 1887. “We have Sunday and the Day of the Immaculate Conception [December 8], which is our own Black Friday.”

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“Sales have lost a bit of their attractiveness because they were liberalized and now stores hold them whenever they want,” explains Florencio Delgado, president of the Federation of Downtown Madrid Retailers.

Nevertheless, Delgado supports the notion of Black Friday in Spain. “Even though this is an American thing, it’s not bad to have it in Spain, where we’re all out of dates to get shoppers excited. It’s a trend, and like all trends, it needs a while to take hold.”

English version by Susana Urra.

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