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Europe embraces Black Friday sales with some reservations

Billions of euros will change hands over Black Friday weekend sales across Europe, but despite increasingly accepting the US import, the promotions will be marked by strikes, protests and concerns about over-consumption.

Europe embraces Black Friday sales with some reservations
Photo: Daniel Bockwoldt/DPA/AFP

Here is how the sales, which stretch four days from Black Friday to Cyber Monday, are expected to fare in some of the continent's big spenders:

France

After starting in 2015, the concept of Black Friday sales has now been taken up by all major retailers after wavering in the wake of the Paris attacks in November 2015.

The French are expected to spend €845 million ($1 billion) online this weekend, a 15 percent increase since 2016, and €4.5 billion in stores, a four percent rise, according to a report by the Centre For Retail Research for the Poulpeo website.

But buyers beware — the government website cybermalveillance.gouv.fr has urged all shoppers to be wary during the sales, when scams by cybercriminals multiply.

Some have also warned of the dangers of over consumption. Envie, a network of 50 French companies, launched a “Green Friday” initiative, while the Camif website closed on Friday, saying it was “fed up”.

Germany

Shoppers in Germany have been seduced by the sales for several years.

Last year, 16 percent of consumers participated in the sales on Black Friday and 13 percent on Cyber Monday, spending a 1.7 billion euros, according to the German retail federation.

However US online retail giant Amazon faces strikes by 2,000 at six of its warehouses in Germany by employees demanding better working conditions, according to trade union Verdi.

Spain

Black Friday took off in Spain in 2012, when labour reforms liberalised sales.

Nine out 10 companies will participate in the sales this year, according to the Spanish Digital Economy Association. Even banks are joining in, offering discounted credit cards and home loans.

The average Spanish shopper is expected to spend 222 euros during the sales, up from 200 last year. Sales country-wide could reach 1.4 billion euros.

Faced with this rising consumption, some associations have encouraged people to boycott the sales, with little success.

Italy

Fourteen million Italians will take advantage of the sales on Friday, according to leading local business association Confesercenti. A total of €1.5 billion is expected to change hands — an average of €108 per person.

Most of the sales take place online, but Black Friday is gradually gaining acceptance in brick-and-mortar stores, with seven out of 10 making special offers this year.

Along with Germany, some Italian Amazon workers will also go on strike at a distribution centre in Castel San Giovanni in the country's north.

Greenpeace activists also protested in a Rome shopping centre, using the symbol of a globe suffocating under the weight of consumer goods.

Britain

After a drop in the value of the pound, British shoppers may well welcome this year's sales.

Britons are expected to spend £2.6 billion (€2.9 billion, $3.4 billion) this Friday, up eight percent from last year, according to forecasts by VoucherCodes and the Centre for Retail Research.

Over the four days, as much as €7.8 billion will be spent — an increase of seven percent.

SHOPPING

Spain to ban plastic packaging for food and vegetables from 2023

A ban on the sale of fruit and vegetables in plastic wrapping in supermarkets will come into effect in 2023, as part of a decree drafted by Spain's Ministry for Ecological Transition.

Spain to ban plastic packaging for food and vegetables from 2023
A ban on the sale of fruit and vegetables in plastic wrapping in supermarkets will come into effect in 2023. Photo by CESAR MANSO / AFP

It also includes measures to encourage shoppers to buy loose fruit and vegetables and curb the sale of plastic bottles.

The ban on plastic wrapping for fruit and vegetables will apply to produce weighing under 1.5 kilograms. Meanwhile those “at risk of deteriorating when sold loose” will not be affected, according to Spanish newspaper El País.

The decree aims to incorporate European Union rules into Spain’s legislation, and follows similar legislation in France that will go into effect next year.

READ ALSO: This couple turned a desire for a zero-waste household into a thriving Madrid business

The goal is to “fight the overuse of packaging in the most effective way,” a ministry spokesperson told El País, adding that plastic pollution has “exceeded all limits.”

It will also aim to make 100% of packaging recyclable by 2030, as well as cut the sale of plastic bottles by half.

Rules forcing authorities to “encourage the installation of drinking fountains in public spaces”, “introduce alternatives to the sale of bottled drinks” and reduce “the distribution of single-use drinking cups” at public events, are also being contemplated.

Representatives of green groups welcomed the ban but added that the Spanish government is not moving fast enough to put a stop to plastic pollution.

“We drink plastic, we eat plastic and we breathe plastic,” Julio Barea of Greenpeace, told El País.

According to the Ministry of Ecological Transition, Spain generations 1.6 million tonnes of waste from plastic packaging every year, and recycles less than half. Two thirds of what goes to landfill is not recycled.

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