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Retailers set for bumper Christmas shopping season but say Black Friday losing appeal

Sector confident of meeting demand despite concerns over supply chain issues prompting early spending

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25 November 2021 03:01 PM

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ACN | Barcelona

Retailers across Catalonia are preparing for a bumper Christmas shopping season but say that Black Friday is losing some of its appeal, both for shops and customers.

Concerns around the global supply chain crisis and possible stock shortages has prompted some shoppers to get their purchases in early this year.

Stores, however, are confident of meeting demand, with many placing larger orders than usual from suppliers and doing so earlier, as well as stocking alternatives to bestselling items.

Overall, the retail sector is anticipating that sales this year will be similar to or even higher than in 2019, before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shoppers get in early

Over one in three stores (35%) have already noticed customers doing some Christmas shopping, according to PIMEC, which represents Catalonia's small and medium-sized enterprises. This is "a higher percentage than usual," according to Miquel Àngel de Garro, director of PIMEC Comerç. That number is expected to grow this week as stores mark Black Friday, a date that in recent years has heralded the start of the shopping season.

As for supply problems – one of the reasons people might be hitting the high street ahead of schedule – four out of ten businesses admit to having had issues already, while a further 35% believe they may have in the future.

Mobile phones and laptops are the two areas facing supply problems, due to a lack of microchips, Joan Carles Calbet told the Catalan News Agency (ACN). He's the director of Calbet Appliances and despite supply chain concerns, he doesn't believe that the shelves will be empty.

"We think there has been a lot of alarmism, perhaps intentional," he says, adding, "it's true that we'll run out of some popular items, but that happens every year."

Average spending is set to rise this year, partly due to an overall rise in prices, as well as household's "desire to shop," and savings made during the pandemic, according to Neus Soler, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the Open University of Catalonia. Black Friday spending will be between €180 and €210 on average, between 12% and 20% more than last year, according to studies by Google and Webloyalty.

Black Friday, "a contradiction"

Many Catalan companies, however, believe that Black Friday is losing popularity, with some explicitly reminding customers that they won't be applying any special discounts on Friday.

According to PIMEC's survey, 46% of businesses will take part in Black Friday this year, down from 65% in 2018. "Celebrating Black Friday often means getting into very aggressive discounting, and there are establishments that cannot or are not interested in getting into this game," the director of PIMEC Comerç points out.

Calbet, meanwhile, sees Black Friday as "a contradiction." "You can't do big discounts taking into account that we're lacking some items and prices are rising," he says.

He has decided to put a different spin on the festival of consumerism this year: his shops will make a donation towards children's cancer research equal to the discounts applied to all purchases between November 25 and 27.

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  • Black Friday poster in a Misako store in L'illa Diagonal shopping mall, Barcelona, November 22, 2021 (by Marta Casado Pla)

  • Black Friday poster in a Misako store in L'illa Diagonal shopping mall, Barcelona, November 22, 2021 (by Marta Casado Pla)

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