Black Friday in COVID-19 Times: What to Expect


Black Friday originated in the US and marks the start of the holiday shopping season. Its best feature is that it causes massive consumer demand. In 2019, nearly 25 million people in France took advantage of this huge day of sales and treated themselves to a product at a ruthlessly competitive price, and 165 million Americans did the same. Black Friday arrived in France in 2010. Every year, consumers’ wallets and sellers’ turnover are getting more and more used to it. The day is also a great opportunity to attract new clients and win over foreign markets!

With many brick-and-mortar stores currently closed in Europe due to lockdowns, e-commerce businesses may even be able to take advantage this year. Let’s consider what Black Friday will look like in COVID-19 times!

Find out about COVID-19’s impact on business

Black Friday in a nutshell

Black Friday is held on the fourth Friday in November – the day after Thanksgiving. The rest of the world is starting to understand why it’s already something of an institution across the pond: consumers can buy and sellers can sell off their stock, gain new customers and even boost their international development. There are no borders online. On Black Friday, consumers hunt down the best offers, no matter where they are.

Some businesses have understood this well, extending what used to be just one day of sales as far as possible! Black Friday is increasingly preceded by Black Friday Week and followed by Cyber Weekend and then Cyber Monday – a day of hi-tech product sales born out of Black Friday’s success. Are you keeping up?! Good…because this year, Black Friday might look a little different.

Black Friday in COVID-19 times: consequences

The pandemic has been having a major impact on the world economy since the start of the year. But what will Black Friday 2020 be like?

Let’s consider the past. In 2019, Black Friday accounted for 56 million e-commerce transactions and around 1.7 billion euros spent over four days in France. In the USA, 7.4 billion dollars were spent on the first Black Friday day (20% up on the previous year) versus 4.2 billion dollars on Thanksgiving. These figures were obviously higher than those in 2018, and will probably be lower than those this year. However, there is one important thing to consider.

COVID-19 has done a lot of damage. Businesses have been on an emotional rollercoaster through lockdowns, reopenings, curfews, bars/restaurants closing, and sales being down.

In many countries, people have been forced to stay at home again for new government-imposed lockdowns. The result is that many non-essential businesses have shut.

“Small traders” versus Amazon

As we have said, many brick-and-mortar stores are and will be closed on Black Friday this year. Although this gives e-commerce sites an advantage, sellers aren’t all feeling equally enthusiastic. A fight has begun between retail giant Amazon and “small traders”.

Amazon has been criticised for reaping the rewards during the pandemic, while brick-and-mortar stores have been forced to shut.

However, every dog has its day. On 10 November, the European Commission opened an enquiry looking at Amazon’s alleged abuse of its dominant position and accusing it of distorting competition. One to watch…

COVID-19: an opportunity for e-commerce?

In Canada and the USA, Black Friday creates such demand that online and physical sellers set aside limited stock especially. The message is that there won’t be enough for everyone. In the USA, even dentists offer promotions on the day!

Despite the pandemic, sales forecasts remain pretty encouraging for Black Friday 2020. Deloitte is predicting 35% growth in online sales for the end of 2020 compared with 2019. 1147 billion dollars of sales are expected for the period between Black Friday and Christmas – 30% of the US retail sector’s annual turnover. Meanwhile, Glassbox says that 70% of American consumers are planning to buy online due to COVID-19.

According to OpinionWay, 62% of the French population buy something each year on Black Friday. One third see the event as an excellent way to do their Christmas shopping ahead of time and at a discount.

So, we hope that sellers will have everything ready on the day to stop their websites crashing!

What about Green Friday?

Green Friday began in 2017 in France and aims to raise people’s awareness of responsible consumer behaviour. When purchases are made, Green Friday is there to provide a reminder of how excessive consumption impacts the environment.

Supported by Paris City Hall, the movement is currently developing in Brussels with help from RESSOURCES – the federation of social and circular enterprises. In 2019, it had over 400 organisations on board, all saying they were “FOR” responsible consumption. The companies involved promise not to reduce prices on Black Friday and instead give 10% of their turnover to various charities supporting the cause.

But Green Friday isn’t as well-known as Black Friday among consumers. Nor do they find it as convincing. While 71% of French people say they support the project, just 23% endorse the cause… But who knows? This Franco-Belgian movement could still extend across Europe and have a much bigger influence on people!

So, there you have it. Black Friday is more than a chance to get rid of troublesome stock – it’s a real development opportunity. Why not set your sights further afield on this day when promotions count for more than borders? Contact a new audience, make yourself known and reach foreign markets with an international expansion strategy

Be prepared for Black Friday

Jumping on the Black Friday band wagon is one thing, making a success of it as a business is another. You need a ‘big picture’ plan for a productive Black Friday if you want to balance your end of year books!

1. Hypothesize

If Black Friday is synonymous with discounts, then what discounts will you offer? Do an inventory of products you need to get rid of and keep in mind that the idea is to increase publicity and get rid of surplus stocks, more than to make a profit. Worth noting that if you spread out your offers throughout the sale, alternating them, you’ll encourage clients to keep coming back without getting bored. Promotional codes, price strike outs, flash sales, games and competitions, use a variety of methods!

2. Plan

Your sales can start at the beginning of the week, Wednesday evening, Thursday at midnight etc. then finish Friday at midnight, last all weekend or run into Cyber Monday. It all depends on who is selling and where. In France, the peak buying time is Friday evening at 9pm. In Italy it’s 2pm. Whatever approach you take, consider spreading out your offers over enough hours to reach several time zones!

3. Go International

Black Friday sales are an international event, the perfect occasion to reach consumers you usually can’t. If you want the results to match you expectations try posting your prices in several currencies, showing international delivery costs and times, translating descriptions or better still localising your whole site in advance so that it’s perfectly adapted for your target market.

4. Think Technical

Black Friday at its best means unbelievable site traffic on a totally unprecedented level – to the point that site crashes are legendary! Take precautions in advance, warn your technical team, in stall interactive queues, open a dedicated temporary shop…everyone has their own solution. It’s also worth optimising your e-comerce site for mobile purchases as these count for an increasing amount of buying traffic.

5. Communicate

A promotion is nothing without communication: to attract customers you need to give them information. Prepare attractive visual material, both digital and printed, disseminate them on social media, organise targeted marketing campaigns. Revisit the graphics on your site to promote your event: post banners or a countdown and give visitors the chance to sign up to emails for reminders or alerts.


Black Friday offers more than an opportunity to sell surplus stock, it is an opportunity for growth. For this one day promotions are stronger than borders, so why not aim a little further afield? Make contact with a new public, get your company name out there and reach foreign markets with an international growth strategy!



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