Angst Over Amazon Provokes Black Friday Backlash in France

The mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, circulated an online petition titled “Noël Sans Amazon” (“An Amazon-free Christmas”). Addressed to Santa Claus, it commits signatories to a “#ChristmasWithoutAmazon,” which is described as a tax-dodging Grinch that destroys small businesses, jobs and the environment in France.

The virtual call to arms, however, quickly fell victim to an online hack that overloaded the website with fake signatures sent from over 200 different servers, including hundreds in the name of Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s chief executive, with the comment “Sorry, not sorry, Jeff.”

The scramble by French politicians to sooth the ire of small businesses reopened a broader controversy over Black Friday itself, which wasn’t even an event in Europe until a few years ago, when it was ushered in mainly by Amazon, which began promoting major sales in lockstep with those in the United States.

While the American Thanksgiving is just another Thursday in Europe, Black Friday has thrived. In Britain, Spain and other countries, Amazon and other big retailers already started offering Black Friday discounts online earlier this month.

France has been slower than other European countries to join the trend, and politicians have discouraged shoppers from participating, warning of “a frenzy of consumption” in which people are encouraged to buy products they don’t need. The fact that Amazon is not a French company did not help, either.

Yet Black Friday has been a crucial tool for retailers to top up sales. Last year, retailers in France raked in an estimated 6 billion euros in revenue around Black Friday.

Those sales are more crucial than ever this year as retailers faced unprecedented losses from lockdowns linked to the coronavirus pandemic. Though stores reopened from June through September, that was not enough to fully compensate for France’s first lockdown: year-to-date sales are still, on average, 10 percent below their 2019 levels, according to an analysis by the German bank Allianz.

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