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Black Friday advertising in a shop display
Every year again - discounts towards the end of November Image: Firn / Shutterstock

Black Friday: hype and facts

The last Friday in November is Black Friday, the most popular day of the year for retailers. But bargain hunters should be careful. Retailers are primarily interested in boosting sales and emptying their warehouses. Whether the bombastically advertised savings really materialise is often questionable.

Black Friday is getting longer and longer

Unsurprisingly, Black Friday originated in the USA. Black Friday has long been the day with the highest turnover in the retail sector. Traditionally, the hustle and bustle of Christmas sales begins in the last week of November after Thanksgiving. In 1941, the American president moved Thanksgiving forward in order to extend the pre-Christmas business for retailers by a week. The media are familiar with the queues outside the stores waiting for the starting gun to go off and then the tumultuous scenes of the crowds racing for the doorbuster deals.

One estimate shows that online shops worldwide generate around 20% of their annual sales in November. (Source: black-friday.global). The phenomenon was also introduced to Europe in the mid-2000s through sales events and discount battles with intensive marketing and generates billions in sales for retailers everywhere. In Germany, Black Friday now accounts for 5 billion, with double-digit growth rates every year - especially online. Compared to other shopping days towards the end of November, purchases on Black Friday in Austria increase more than tenfold.

Cybermonday also sees a 150% increase. (Source: Statista) A few years ago, bargain hunting in Austria mainly left the most money in the shopping centre. In the meantime, online sales have also taken the lead over this period in this country. Austrians mainly shop via smartphone. According to a study by the Austrian Retail Association, an average of around €300 is spent here on Black Friday. This is increasing year on year and is in line with the global trend

Crowd of people with large packages in the shopping centre
Global Black Friday sale - here in Sao Paolo, Brazil Image: Nelson Antoine / Shutterstock

Images like this one of crowds of people in electronics shops are familiar, but surprisingly more is spent on clothing on Black Friday. Electronics take second place among the best-selling products, followed by shoes, cosmetics and perfumes. Household appliances are in fifth place, with the most being spent on them.

The other extension was the establishment of Cyber Monday (or Black Monday) on the Monday after Black Friday due to the rise of online retail. The days in between were declared Black Weekend or Cyberweekend, the following week Cyber Week or Black Week. Discounts, bargain prices and vouchers are heavily advertised weeks in advance. Countdowns are often installed on websites to show how long a deal will last or how many items are still available.

Pictogram with "Cyber Monday" in white stylized computer font on black background

Continuation of Black Friday

Can it go on any longer?

But that's not all: Singles Day has also been establishing itself here for the past two years. This originally comes from Chinese youth culture, as a kind of counterpart to Valentine's Day. The repetition of the number one on the calendar day of 11 November is a reminder of being alone. In China, people meet up for dinner, in bars and for karaoke on this day. In this sense, Chinese singles also like to treat themselves to something on this date in order to console themselves for being alone.

Chinese slogans and sales figures at a presentation by Alibaba
Chinese online marketplace Alibaba presents record sales on "Singles Day" Image: ARD / Screenshot of the Tagesschau programme on 9.11.2022 "China im Rabattrausch" (China in a discount frenzy)

The business world has embraced Singles Day, which was originally intended to be social. The Asian sales platform Alibaba turns over 30 billion dollars on Singles Day. This may come as a surprise, but the figures are clear; as more is sold on Singles Day in China than on Black Friday in the West, it is now also the day with the highest turnover in the world. Amazon and more and more European online marketplaces and wholesalers have jumped on this trend and have been marketing Singles Day more and more for around two years now.

The sales frenzy no longer lasts just one Friday, it now lasts eight weeks if you count the "regular" Christmas sales. More and more retailers are now proclaimed Black Weeks (plural). A few weeks later, the winter sales start in January.

  • 11.11.2023 Singles Day
  • 17.11.2023 Amazon "Black Friday Week" including 27.11.2023
  • 24.11.2023 Black Friday - ushers in "Cyber Weekend"
  • 27.11.2023 Cybermonday  - ushers in “Cyber Week”

70% cheaper! - Deal of the year - killer price

Price comparisons are a must, and the promise of a "killer deal" should be countered with research time on price comparison platforms or search engines. Paradoxically, there is massive advertising with discounts and comparative prices during the Cyber Days, but very often the offer does not stand up to a real price comparison. The advertising slogan often compares cabbage and turnips. A non-binding and possibly outdated price recommendation from a manufacturer often has nothing to do with the actual market price.

Supposed bargains are very often not cheaper at all, so scepticism is advisable. Consumer magazines and organisations have often documented the prices before, on Black Friday and in the weeks after. The results are sobering. In a study initiated by ZDF, around 3000 products in the weeks before, during and after Black Friday did not show any major price reductions compared to the daily specials. The sales platform Idealo calculated the average sector-independent saving on Black Friday at 4%. You can easily get a discount like this with other promotions or through normal price fluctuations throughout the year. The Chamber of Labour's (Arbeiterkammer) price monitor shows that for almost a third of items, the same Black Friday promotional goods were already available at a better price elsewhere in regular sales on the day of the offer.

Dropshipping has disadvantages

Disappointed woman in a kitchen over opened package
Image: fizkes / Shutterstock

However, it is advisable to take a second look at offers from unknown providers in particular. You should generally only pay in advance for trustworthy providers. There are many who take part in the hype when the hunt for bargains mobilises the masses, but who are unable or unwilling to offer a good service. The question should always be at the back of your mind: Is this perhaps a dodgy dropshipping company?

Dropshippers do not even have the goods in stock, but usually order from the Far East. Customer service can therefore be disastrous - returns are often unreasonable or impossible. Having to send return parcels to China with an uncertain outcome would discourage customers from ordering. On the European-looking website, it is hard to find out that it works with dropshipping. In addition, the price would have been better anyway if the order had been placed directly on the online marketplace without the diversions via dropshipping. This is because many dropshipping retailers place orders in their own webshop, as orders with Alibaba and Co, and add a retailer margin.


If you have changed your mind and want to get rid of your Black Friday bargain, you have the right to return the goods for 14 days without giving a reason and receive a refund, provided you ordered from a European retailer. You can use our sample letter for this purpose; online sellers often enclose return slips with the delivery anyway. The two-week period begins on the day of delivery. Be careful with postage; unless otherwise agreed (see the retailer's terms and conditions), the customer pays the postage for the return! Also be careful with tickets for events, flight tickets or items that have been customised. Cancellation free of charge is not possible for these.

Pictogram shows parcel and the number 14 in a circle above it

Right of withdrawal for online orders

Skip Black Friday

Shopping on Black Friday and the like is not just a bad idea from an economic point of view. Apart from the supposed savings from dubious discounts, impulse purchases lead to people buying things on impulse that they would not otherwise have bought. This puts more strain on the wallet than an alleged discount and the satisfaction of the impulse purchase soon evaporates.

Well dressed lady dances upon a waste dump with shopping bags in hand
Image: Ground-Picture / Shutterstock

The detrimental social and ecological aspects of the orchestrated day of consumption are obvious. Mountains of thoughtlessly ordered fast fashion, cosmetics and electrical goods are often produced under questionable circumstances (ecology, working conditions) and transported halfway around the world. The consumer society is practising self-indulgence.

That's why more and more initiatives are declaring Black Friday a buy-nothing day. Or, if you don't want to miss out on the collective shopping frenzy, "Green Friday" or "Fair Friday". As an alternative, people are encouraged to buy sustainable products with environmental labels and social certifications.

Round dark green pictogram shows zeigt price tag with globe and heart

Look out for environmental labels

Summarised tips

  • Remain sceptical of bargain promises - long-term studies show that the price savings at other sales periods are limited.
  • Don't be stressed by online counters - When buying items on impulse, where remaining items or expiring time are displayed, most things end up in the shopping basket that are not needed at all.
  • Get an overview of market prices on price comparison platforms - Instead of prices are often empty promises. Discounts on RRP and before/after prices are very often a marketing ploy and are based on artificial price increases.
  • Use your right of return - for online orders in the EU, you can cancel the purchase for 14 days from receipt of the goods. This does not apply, however, to stationary retail, customised products, etc.
  • Do not order from dropshippers - check whether the webshop provides an imprint and return address in Europe. If you order from China, for example, you will have additional costs and difficulties if there are problems with the goods.
  • Don't buy into consumer hype - Consider sustainable products, repairing them instead of buying new ones or consciously avoiding them altogether, e.g. disposable fashion that has had its day after a few wears.
Pictogram shows shopping bag with smiley face on it

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