Understanding the (tenth) Black Friday in Brazil: the (future) main date of the Brazilian retail trade calendar.

In Brazil, there is a Thanksgiving Day that Brazilians do not usually celebrate because it is not a holiday in the country. Most Brazilians don’t even know that Thanksgiving is on the official Brazilian calendar; therefore, only a few know the meaning of it.

Brazilian Black Friday, like the American one, happens the next day of Thanksgiving, but it has nothing to do with the holiday itself, being merely a business date.

Black Friday entered the Brazilian trade calendar in 2010, and this year it is celebrating its 10th edition. Although it is the most recent commercial date in the Brazilian trade calendar, Black Friday has reached prominent figures (based on online purchases only, this year is expected to sum up to USD 1 billion) and has established itself as a prominent yearly retail sales date.

Shops are crowded because consumers attracted to the “Fear of Missing Out” triggered by the promise of incredible discounts.
Picture: Cris Faga/NurPhoto

It is noteworthy that in Brazil, more categories of products and services are joining Black Friday every year, even those that usually are not found in e-commerce such as automobiles, real estate, food, and beverages.

As it is a recent date, the Brazilian consumer is not wholly familiar with Black Friday. For many Brazilians, Black Friday is just a week sale off that takes place in late November. Isn’t the especial Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

What has confused consumers is that Black Friday gained extensions over time: promotions like “Black Friday warms”, “Pre-Black Friday”, and “Early Black Friday”, besides the subsequent promotions during the following days. This has increasingly contributed to the perception of the Brazilian consumers that Black Friday is becoming a clearance season, as a Black November.

For middle-class salaried Brazilians, Black Friday means an opportunity to buy appliances that in Brazil – due to the high tax burden – are costly such as refrigerators, dishwashers, televisions, washers, air-conditioners, stoves, and furniture to equip the house for the holidays, thus very sensitive to big discounts and averse to the financial risk of paying dearly.

For some of the Brazilian middle-class families living in the painful economic reality, Black Friday represents the “chance of the year” to buy a much-desired appliance, a purchase usually postponed to better-off seasons.

Some chain stores open their doors at different times as consumers line up attracted to the “Fear of Missing Out” triggered by the promise of incredible discounts.

This humor drawing shows an example of a Black Friday joke.

If a store joins Black Friday without really significant discounts, i.e., equivalent to at least 20% of the regular price, it can reap bad results on its brand image. Brazilian consumers have coined the term “Black Fraud” to describe promotions where the discount is less than 20% of the regular price. This expression came from the realization that some chains raised the price in the weeks before Black Friday so that the discounts seemed higher. We must not forget that Brazilians have a very good sense of humor and are fond of jokes. On these occasions, consumers say that the promotion is like “double the price in half.” And they not only do not buy but also ridicule the store on social media, sharing photos and sarcastic comments.

Brazilian consumers plan their purchases for Black Friday. The buying journey begins with the advance internet price survey, observing and comparing brands and technical specifications. The outcome of the purchase (which does not necessarily have to occur on Friday) will happen when – and only if – the discount is significant, which in practice would be a discount of at least 20% off the price.

In the first editions of the Brazilian Black Friday, retailers were wrong to offer discounts perceived as irrelevant, and some establishments raised prices in the previous week to make price cuts appear even higher than they were. The result was a loss of credibility of the business date and widespread distrust on the part of consumers. The acceptance of Brazilian consumers is not massive because many still distrust the discounts offered.

Offering an unmistakable discount on Black Friday is not an easy task for Brazilian retailers. With the slow resumption of growth in the Brazilian economy, sales are offered almost every month, and there is little scope for retailers to provide significant discounts on the most wanted product categories.

It cannot be forgotten that Brazil is a country with continental dimensions, and the quality of the Internet varies widely. In large Brazilian cities, neighborhoods with a less-favored and lower economic profiles have fewer mobile phone antennas installed by operators, and many of these communities have no fiber optics. Therefore, physical stores are quite visited during this period: consumers would instead go to the store personally to secure their discounts than live a frustrating experience of not being able to make an online purchase and losing the discount.

Christmas inspires Brazilians to give presents to children and, in some families, adults also exchange gifts. Its nearness to the holiday in question explains a phenomenon of the Brazilian Black Friday: the anticipation of the purchase of Christmas gifts. This behavior has grown every year, especially in e-commerce, where Black Friday sales have already surpassed the Christmas period.

It is noteworthy that in Brazil, the delivery of products purchased over the Internet varies greatly depending on the region in which the buyer resides. Consumers residing in the capitals of the South and Southeast regions receive the goods purchased a few days later. The same is not true for residents of other cities. Somewhere else in the country, the delivery may occur over 15 days after purchase.

So, taking advantage of Black Friday to anticipate Christmas shopping becomes a natural behavior for consumers who buy Christmas gifts over the Internet and want to receive their products before Christmas Eve. Regardless of Black Friday, these consumers need to buy their gifts in the early days of December, so they don’t risk the gift being delivered only after Christmas.

This is why the Brazilian Black Friday is more multifaceted than ever: those who can shop over the Internet and pick up at stores are avoiding delivery. Others search the Internet and head to the stores to buy in person and take their products home on time. Others go to the store to see the product live, but close their e-commerce purchases to take advantage of the more substantial discounts.

There is one more aspect of Brazilian culture that explains Black-Friday’s exceptional performance: in Brazil, salaried workers in the formal labor market receive their thirteenth salary in two installments being the first one in November. This additional revenue guarantees consumers the resources to take advantage of the great discounts of the Brazilian Black Friday.

IIt is for all these characteristics that the Brazilian Black Friday – very different from the Black Friday in the United States – has much potential to assume the position of the main date of the Brazilian trade calendar soon.