Like Halloween and Valentine’s Day, another North American tradition called “Black Friday” has become popular in Norway, much to the despair of critics. Thousands of Norwegians stood in lines and even camped outside shopping centers, to cash in Friday on what they believed to be huge discounts on selected merchandise.
The fourth Friday in November has been a major shopping day in the US for years, formally kicking off the Christmas shopping season that’s actually promoted long before Halloween in October. Now referred to as “Black Friday,” the origins of the name remain unclear. Some say it’s rooted in retailers finally breaking into “the black” (making profits) because of the sheer volume of sales. Others say the term refers to the huge traffic jams caused by the retailers’ promotions and special pre-Christmas sales, while still others connect it to the anti-shopping movement, launched to oppose the commercialization of Christmas and over-consumption.
Whatever its roots, Norwegian retailers have now embraced “Black Friday” several years after a new “outlet”-style shopping center opened south of Oslo in 2009. This week it once again attracted huge crowds and erstwhile shoppers who camped out in freezing temperatures for days, in the hopes of being among the first to storm through the doors when the “Black Friday” sales began. Other retailers have followed suit, drawing in crowds themselves.
The trend deeply disturbs anti-capitalist and pro-environment activists. “We don’t need Black Friday,” Arild Hermstad of Framtiden i våre hender (The Future in Our Hands), told newspaper Dagsavisen. “This is just something the business world had dreamed up and that got imported to Norway. It’s only to build up hype for Christmas shopping. It sends the opposite message of what the world needs.”
The retailers were raking in customers, though. Hermstad’s pleas for Norwegians to ignore the “Black Friday” hype weren’t heard among the hordes of shoppers who fought over merchandise at shopping centers around the country.