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Shoppers walk through the retail district near Oxford Circus as the annual Black Friday sale event arrives
Black Friday traditionally marks the start of the Christmas shopping season in the US, and now also in many countries of the worldImage: Leon Neal/Getty Images

German consumer groups wary of Black Friday shopping spree

Mischa Ehrhardt
November 24, 2022

Despite a massive rise in the cost of living, Germans appear unwilling to keep their purses tight amid Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping frenzy. But consumer groups are viewing bargain hunting with skepticism.

https://p.dw.com/p/4JwrH

Going bargain hunting after the Thanksgiving holiday is an American tradition that has spread all around the world, including in Germany, in recent years.

The weeklong shopping frenzy dubbed Cyber Week that kicks off with Black Friday gives the global consumer ample opportunity to delve into a plethora of special promotions and discounts on offer by both the neighborhood brick-and-mortar stores and the all-you-can-buy online platforms, the likes of Amazon, eBay or China's Taobao.

In Germany this year, consumer sentiment is a mixed bag as people are pinching and scraping amid rising inflation and high energy bills, while still seeking to strike a bargain using their limited financial resources.

According to the Bitkom digital industry lobby group, German consumers are thinking more carefully about likely purchases, and are actively seeking best-price bargains.

"People in Germany are mindful of their individual budgets and many feel the need to keep a check on the money they spend," said Bitkom Chief Executive Bernhard Rohleder after his organization published a consumer survey recently. "Black Friday and the entire Cyber Week probably have never been so important to them as in this inflation-plagued year of 2022," he told DW.

Platforms vs. malls

As in previous years, sales via the internet are likely outpacing those made in shopping malls and on High Street.

German retail industry group HDE asked consumers about their preferred Cyber Week shopping outlets, finding that 22% more will use the internet for purchases this year — an estimated increase of €5.7 billion ($5.8 billion) in money terms.

According to Bitkom, almost every second German consumer said they would make their Cyber Week purchases this year on the internet, while merely 5% said they would prefer brick-and-mortar stores and malls. The primary reason given was a better price comparison online.

Little wonder then that German department store chain Galeria Kaufhof Karstadt declared its second bankruptcy in less than three years in October, but said it would continue its business on the company's internet platform.

A picture of an Amazon warehouse in Pforzheim, Germany, with a huge number of packages stacked in racks.
Online platforms like Amazon are securing an ever-bigger share of the Cyber Week sales Image: picture-alliance/dpa/C. Schmidt

HDE deputy chief executive Stephan Tromp says the special-offers shopping concept around Thanksgiving will remain a growth story even under adverse economic conditions. "Many consumers are especially focusing on the two days in their hunt for bargains," he told DW, referring to Black Friday and Cyber Monday which are usually the two busiest days for businesses in the week.

Overall, however, sales are not expected to go through the roof in these trying times in Germany.

The picture shows the logos of Galeria Kaufhof and Karstadt, whose buildings are direct neightbors in the city center of Trier, Germany
With insolvency proceedings underway against Galeria Kaufhof Karstadt, 131 company stores and thousands of jobs are on the lineImage: picture-alliance/U. Baumgarten

Shop till you drop

With Cyber Week shopping almost upon us, consumer advocacy groups here are warning against the pitfalls accompanying the shopping frenzy.

Katja Nonnenkamp-Klüting from the consumer advice center in the northern German town of Bremen even believes it's unlikely that consumers will make "much of a bargain" during the event. "One should expect that prices had been raised before they are lowered again and offered as a bargain," she told DW.

Another gimmick frequently used in Cyber Week sales offerings, she said, was hawking prices as "below recommended by manufacturers." Often such knockdown prices can be secured also at normal times outside the special event, she noted. Her advice during Cyber Week: Stay calm and collected "even if a massive discount is threatening to undermine your logical thinking."

"Don't allow anybody to put you under pressure, even if time or product counts suggest you have to make a deal quickly. Those are marketing gimmicks that want to lure you into rash and thoughtless purchases."

Generally, the good thing about online shopping in Germany is the right to cancel a deal for up to two weeks after the purchase is made, Nonnenkamp-Klüting said. But any return could incur costs, too, she added, which could be quite high if the seller is based abroad.

This article was originally published in German

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