All last week I found myself bombarded with television, radio, and online advertisements for one of the biggest spectacles of the year: Black Friday. Every year stores open earlier and earlier with bigger sales and more aggressive advertising. Recently I’ve wondered what Black Friday means to the rest of the world. The media coverage of violence and riots over half off flatscreens no doubt reaches other nations. Are people intrigued by this day when millions of Americans line up to shop in the middle of the night or even at dinnertime on a national holiday?
Not surprisingly, this consumer tradition has begun to spread to other nations. In the past few years alone, Black Friday has gone from a strange happening in the US to a major retail day in the UK, France, China, Brazil, and more. While it isn’t as established as it is in the US, large chains and a few prominent stores have begun to participate in Black Friday. In the UK, online retailers were especially optimistic about this year’s Black Friday, expecting record-breaking sales. According to an article on the Economist, Amazon “claims that it introduced Black Friday to Britain in 2010, but it was only last year that it really took off” when other retailers started to join in. In France, “Le Black Friday” is gaining momentum. Companies in Germany and Sweden are also enticed by the promise of unprecedented profits, some making the commitment to en entire Black Week of discounts. Nigerians are enjoying sales on US products as well thanks to Mall for Africa, which ships products purchased on American websites to Nigeria.
Black Friday is a crucial shopping event in Brazil where imported goods and foreign brands are especially sought after. The rising popularity of this “adopted holiday” is largely due to increased Internet access and a greater knowledge of costs and discounts abroad. An analyst for Euromonitor International, Alexis Frick, explains “In Brazil, we always had high prices and difficult access to international brands, so there’s pent-up demand. There’s even more pent-up demand now because [thanks to higher Internet penetration] we have more information about prices abroad. This is driving awareness of events like Black Friday” (wsj.com). Even though Brazilians have a new way to save money on their favorite products, the event does not come without drawbacks. Thousands of shoppers complain about false discounts, invalid coupons, and other tricks retailers are playing on their customers. Similarly, Costa Rican authorities warn shoppers about counterfeit goods during “Viernes Negro.”
As the Black Friday spectacle spreads around the world, countries import more than discounts and advertising. Shopping frenzy induced violence results in injuries, arrests, and chaos just like it does in the US. Stores abroad are finding themselves needing increased security and sometimes police supervision on Black Friday. If spectacles are thought to encourage a promotional culture of advertising and consumerism, Black Friday may be considered an ultimate form of commercial spectacle. People are made passive by overwhelming amounts of advertising for huge sales. Meanwhile, the event is obscuring labor relations on the local and global level and also distracting the public from greater news events. Media coverage of Black Friday in the US and now other countries has been an undeniable factor in promoting the event abroad. Based on advertising, media coverage, and increased awareness of events abroad, the spectacle of Black Friday is a highly visual one. Truly all aspects of Black Friday- good and bad- are being recreated as the retail industry exports this American consumer tradition.