Black Friday backlash in France, Germany

The Black Friday sales phenomenon has been greeted by a strike in Germany and a protest in France.
The Black Friday sales phenomenon has been greeted by a strike in Germany and a protest in France.

People don't celebrate Thanksgiving in France, or Russia, or South Africa - but they do shop on Black Friday.

The US 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.

Workers at Amazon in Germany went on strike for better pay on one of the busiest days of the year. Near Paris, climate demonstrators blocked one of the retail giant's warehouses to protest over-production they say is killing the planet. 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.

Globalised commerce has brought US 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 US retailers ahead of the Christmas holidays, the symbol of capitalism run amok.

In Britain, where the big winter sales have traditionally been held on the day after Christmas, companies have been adopting Black Friday marketing campaigns since about 2010.

After a rise in business on the day in the first years, the volume of shopping has levelled off, with most of it happening online over multiple days.

Research by a UK consumer association found that 61 per cent 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 issued a long statement with 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.

While the phenomenon is less widespread in Asia, some major companies like Japan Airlines use it as a slogan.

Among other concerns is that Black Friday could hurt small businesses that do not have the vast marketing budgets and online sales presence of big retail chains or multinationals.

A French legislative committee passed an amendment Monday that proposes prohibiting Black Friday because it causes "resource waste" and "overconsumption".

Australian Associated Press