A number of years ago I read an insightful interview with the then outgoing United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom. As you might expect of a diplomat he was complimentary about his host country and he mentioned the many aspects of British life he’d enjoyed and would miss. He was asked what he’d change about the UK and he said the only thing was that he’d introduce Thanksgiving. He went on to explain what Thanksgiving was, what it meant and why it was important in America. Prior to reading the interview I’d no idea what Thanksgiving was, it was an obscure reference in Hollywood films and American TV shows that I’d assumed was another word for Christmas. So as he explained what it was I found myself agreeing with him, he made it sound like an exemplary holiday and something very worthwhile.
This year though another American cultural ‘day’ has seeped into the UK; Black Friday. This one they can keep. For a start what a horrendous name, I don’t care if its origins reflect retail accounting positions or traffic congestion it needs a better name. It sounds like a 70s terrorist gang or a day for burning witches in the middle ages. Secondly the last thing we need is another hyped shopping day. Shopping madness kicks off its Christmas blitz in late October and reaches its crescendo just before Christmas, followed straight after by the Boxing Day or January sales. So an imaginary sale (are retailers really reducing prices less than four weeks before Christmas, doesn’t that make their January ‘sale’ not a sale then?) in November, on a Friday (it’s not a holiday here, remember!) is really superfluous. Lastly, if I’m honest, I resent the cultural hegemony of this. I’m in danger of sounding like a Marxist, or at least a curmudgeon, but Black Friday doesn’t belong here. It doesn’t make sense for a start, yesterday was Thursday here, a dreich (look it up), dank, normal working winter’s day, no one ate turkey. Today is simply Friday, the last one in November. It’s not black, white or rainbow coloured, just a little grey.
Amazon is the worst offender, but a fair number of others have jumped on the bandwagon and not all of them are American owned. It’s a side effect of globalisation, I get that, and that isn’t going away so I doubt this is either.
It’s St Andrew’s Day on Sunday, the patron saint of Scotland, a day that will pass by largely unnoticed, certainly by large retail chains. Yet it’s a day that resonates and needs far less explanation to the five or so million people living here, why not have your one-day sale then? We’d understand that. If it’s so important to the finances of the retail industry, repackage it for a UK audience, that isn’t beyond the wit of our marketing industry.
In the meantime, out of principal, and because I’m rapidly turning into a Dickensian grump, all emails I receive using the term ‘Black Friday’ are going straight into trash. Roll on Saturday.