Last updated: 04:00 PM ET, Tue November 10 2015

For Better or Worse, Europe is Embracing Black Friday

Destination & Tourism | Josh Lew | November 10, 2015

For Better or Worse, Europe is Embracing Black Friday

Black Friday has long been an American phenomenon. Aggressive deal-seekers have been heading out in the wee hours of Friday morning, or sometimes on Thanksgiving night, to find holiday bargains. Waiting in line outside the local Walmart or Best Buy has even become part of the Thanksgiving Weekend tradition for some folks.

And then, of course, there is the ugly side of Black Friday: news report of in-store violence and YouTube videos of people wrestling over the last discounted flat screen. 

The intense focus on shopping is enough to make some people want to flee the country for the weekend. These retail refugees have to be careful about which destination they choose for their escape, though, because Black Friday has really taken off in some parts of the world. 

Black Friday travels across the Atlantic…

It’s kind of an odd phenomenon, really. Thanksgiving is not celebrated in the U.K., so there is no holiday weekend. You might find a few American expats carving a turkey, but for British people, the day has always been just like any other early-winter Thursday. 

That changed in 2010, when Amazon experimented with Black Friday promotions in England. The idea took off quickly, and now, two out of every three British retailers offer Black Friday sales. Some U.K. shoppers are already planning their strategy for tackling this year’s sales.

…and across the Channel

England is not the only European destination to have Black Friday sales. French, German and Italian retailers also offer deals, as do some stores in Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium. However, two-thirds of Europe’s Black Friday spending takes place in the U.K. 

What does all this mean for tourists? Those looking to escape Black Friday will be disappointed, though you won’t run into long queues for 50 percent off sales at Harrods or on Savile Row. London’s iconic window-shopping destinations won’t be overrun by aggressive bargain hunters. For these high-end places, it will be business as usual.

Thanksgiving just like at home

On the other hand, if Americans want to take advantage of the four-day weekend to have an extended vacation, they can head to England without having to worry about missing any of their favorite traditions. Thanksgiving dinners are pretty easy to find in the U.K.’s major cities. Many restaurants do them for expats and also for curious Britons who appreciate a good meal.  

Since Black Friday is becoming more and more common, American tourists in England can even queue up and find some good deals (as long as they have a way to get that new flat-screen back across the ocean). Measured against the U.S. Dollar, the British Pound will be slightly cheaper than it was last Black Friday, but the exchange rate is still not great for American shoppers in Great Britain. 

Forget Black Friday and take advantage of the weak Euro

Actually, the best option would probably be to skip England’s Black Friday sales and head across the Channel. The Euro is still weak against the Dollar, so American shoppers can save money just by exchanging currencies and shopping at regular stores, even if they don’t have any sales.  

For better or worse, Black Friday is becoming more popular in Europe. American travelers can still take advantage of the long Thanksgiving weekend to visit Great Britain or the Continent, but they should be aware that, on the 4th Friday in November, things could get a little aggressive in Europe’s stores.  

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