Black Friday seduces France amid US backlash

Will we soon see thousands of French people lined up in sleeping bags outside stores across Paris the morning after Thanksgiving? The once uniquely American phenomenon is certainly taking off in France. Find out where to find the best bargains on "Vendredi Noir".

Black Friday seduces France amid US backlash
French retailers getting "Vendredi Noir" fever: (clockwise from top left) CDiscount, FNAC and Origin. Photos: Screengrab.

It’s seen by many as the ultimate symbol of American consumerist excess – ravenous shoppers fresh from expressing their gratitude for the simple things in life, leave their families at home and rush off to buy a new TV or the latest Apple products.

This year, however, the phenomenon of Black Friday and Cyber Monday has come to France like never before.

“Black Friday – until midnight, 15 percent off a selection of products”, reads the banner ad on the homepage of leading French retailer FNAC.

According to French daily Le Parisien, FNAC’s 107 locations across France are also getting “Vendredi Noir” fever, though their 10am-8pm opening hours hardly rival those of their American counterparts, many of whom open on Thanksgiving evening itself, or in the early hours of Friday.

US giant Apple, slightly more demurely, bills Friday as “the ideal day to find the perfect gift,” offering “special prices only today.”

French electronics retailer CDiscount, however, appears to have gone all out this year, billing its sales as Black Friday, and placing a countdown to the end of their 85-percent discounts on their homepage.

French online retailer CDiscount, getting into the "Vendredi Noir" swing of things. Screengrab

Similarly, online video game retailer Origin promises Black Friday sales of up to 60 percent on its website.

The phenomenon is still primarily an online one in France, and many retailers – like Apple and Darty – are holding sales on Friday without labelling them “Black Friday” or “Vendredi Noir”, most other outlets preferring the English language designation.

For consultant and businessman Greg Zemor, the adoption of the American shopping tradition is simply a way for crisis-hit French retailers to boost their sales.

“It’s about creating a new landmark for the consumer, on a par with the first day of summer and winter sales,” he told French financial daily Les Echos on Friday.

As in the UK and Ireland, France traditionally sees major sales in early January, as well in late June.

An unusually poor turnover in spring, however, forced many French stores to start their summer discounts early this year.

SEE ALSO: 'I don't care what they do in New York' – US retailer forced to close early in Paris

Black Friday – on the march in France, on the back foot in the US?

The rise of Vendredi Noir and Cyber Lundi in France comes, perhaps ironically, amid increasing unease among American consumers about the excesses of Black Friday.

The “Black Friday backlash”, as it’s become known, is a reaction to the yearly pushing forward of Black Friday opening hours, to the point where many stores actually opened as early as 6pm on Thanksgiving itself, this year.

The main concern of those calling for a boycott of Thursday openings is the obligation it places on often poorly-paid workers to tear themselves away from their loved ones, on what is tantamount to a sacred festival in the United States.

“If you shop on Thanksgiving, you are part of the problem,” wrote blogger Matt Walsh in the Huffington Post last week, provoking 815,000 “likes” on Facebook.

This pledge to refrain from a trip to the local department store on Thanksgiving has been shared almost one million times on the social network.

“If I’m shopping, someone else is working and not spending time with their family,” it reads.

Photo: Facebook/Say No to shopping on Thanksgiving

Since Thanksgiving is just another Thursday in France, retailer workers’ obligations during pre-Christmas sales are unlikely to become quite as fiercely-contested.

However, if store opening hours continue to lengthen on and around Vendredi Noir, retailers – both French and multinational – could face a backlash in France, where workdays are strictly regulated by law.

International brands such as Apple and Sephora have recently fallen foul of France’s laws against opening past 9pm, and the county has been hit by a divisive debate over whether retailers such as DIY stores, should be allowed to open on Sundays.

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Hospital in south west France hit by cyber-attack demanding $50,000 ransom

A hospital in southwest France has seen some of its IT systems paralysed by a "ransomware" cyberattack, its management said on Tuesday, the third such incident in the last month.

Hospital in south west France hit by cyber-attack demanding $50,000 ransom
Hospital staff were unable to access patient records after the cyberattack. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

The 320-bed facility in Oloron-Sainte-Marie near the Pyrenees mountains was hit by the attack on Monday, with screens displaying a demand in English for $50,000 in Bitcoin.

Hospital workers have had to revert to working with pens and paper, since digital patient records are not available.

The management system, used to monitor medicine stocks and other supplies, has also been affected at a time when the hospital is taking part in vaccination efforts against Covid-19.

“We might get our systems back in 48 hours or in three months,” hospital director Frederic Lecenne told local newspaper La Republique des Pyrenees.

He said personnel had disconnected some computers from the internet and the hospital’s network to try to limit the spread of the ransomware.

In February, hospitals in Dax in southwest France and in Villefranche-sur-Saône in the southeastern Rhone region were subjected to ransomware attacks, while in 2019 a hospital in northern Rouen was also hit.

“Ransomware” attacks see criminals infiltrate and paralyse a target’s IT systems, then demand payments in order to restore them.