Today we will spend £2.6 billion shopping

Enormous: £2.6 billion could also pay for 1.7 billion mosquito nets, which prevent malaria.

Do we spend too much on presents? Black Friday has become one of the busiest shopping days of the year, with the average Briton now spending more than £200 in 24 hours.

It’s the first day of the Christmas shopping season. Expect to see stores overflowing with crowds as retailers slash their prices.

Black Friday is now one of the biggest shopping days in the UK. Last year, consumers spent roughly £2.6 billion in just 24 hours, and the sum is expected to be equalled today. That’s enough money to pay for seven new NHS hospitals, or safe water for eight million villages. It could even build a small house for every homeless family in England.

Black Friday originated in the US. In the 1950s, police in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, started referring to the day after Thanksgiving as “Black Friday” due to the chaotic scenes caused by huge crowds of shoppers and tourists in the city centre.

The term wasn’t common across the nation until the 1980s, when US retailers reinvented the day with more positive connotations and launched one-day sales. The closest thing we had to it in the UK were Boxing Day sales.

In 2010, Amazon started offering British customers Black Friday discounts, but most retailers didn’t catch on until a few years later. With a sudden boom, the news was full of images of brawls breaking out as shoppers wrestled for the cheapest deals. These hectic scenes have now largely calmed as most of us choose to stay and order at home.

Last year, online sales in the UK rose 11.7% compared with 2016, while footfall fell by 3.6%. These figures have prompted experts to suggest that Black Friday might not be so good for Britain’s struggling high streets after all, especially as it puts pressure on retailers to drop prices in the crucial Christmas period.

“It's bad for customers, it’s bad for business, it’s bad for UK retail,” Anthony Thompson, the head of fashion chain Fatface, told the BBC. He called the shopping day “bonkers”.

Electronics and fashion are the most popular items for Black Friday shoppers, followed by Christmas stocking fillers and treats.

Do we spend too much on presents?

Shop til you drop

It’s a terrible waste, say some. The spirit of Christmas isn’t about buying a cheap TV. We can show our loved ones how much we care in meaningful ways without splurging on pointless presents. Besides, our “throw-away society” is clogging up the environment. Instead of stuff, we should put our extra money towards improving the world.

Don’t be a Scrooge, respond others. Taking the time to pick out gifts for the people you love is a central, fun part of Christmas. It’s a joyful tradition we indulge in once a year. Anyway, £2.6 billion may sound like a lot, but when you break it down it’s really just individuals spending a modest amount on their happiness.

You Decide

  1. Should we get rid of Black Friday?
  2. Do we care too much about material possessions?

Activities

  1. Make a list of three things you shop for most often. What impact do they have on your life? Do you wish you spent your money in different ways, not at all, or are you happy with it? Discuss these questions in pairs.
  2. What would you spend £2.6 billion on? Research what kinds of things and projects could cost that much. Write a pitch trying to convince the class why your idea is the best.

Some People Say...

“If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.”

John Lennon

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Today, UK shoppers are expected to spend an estimated £2.6 billion in the Black Friday sales, when retailers offer discounts on prices. Over half of this will be through online sales, as shoppers continue to turn their backs on the high street. Black Friday emerged in the USA from the 1950s onwards, but only took off in the UK around five years ago.
What do we not know?
Whether Black Friday will continue to grow in the UK. Cyber Monday, an online-specific sales day which comes three days after Black Friday, has started to take off in Britain. In the US, this Saturday is also marked as Small Business Saturday. Black Friday is still a huge event in the US. Last year, Americans spent $7.9 billion on Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day.

Word Watch

NHS
The Royal Liverpool hospital, which has not yet opened, is costing roughly £335 million to be built.
House
There are 56,500 households in England who are classed as statutorily homeless, meaning they are unintentionally homeless. In the US, simple “tiny houses” can be built for around $50,000 (or £38,800) each.
Originated
Came from.
Thanksgiving
The American holiday is always celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November, and Black Friday is the day after.
Connotations
The ideas or feelings related to something.
Boxing Day sales
Retailers have traditionally offered large discounts starting from the day after Christmas, and continuing with the January sales, as they seek to get rid of extra stock from the busy pre-Christmas period.
Footfall
The number of people entering a shop.
Struggling
Several well-known chains including Maplin and Poundworld collapsed this year, while others suffered major losses. Struggling stores include Marks & Spencer and House of Fraser.

Subjects

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