Back to black: why Finnish retailers are expanding their sales

The consumer spending frenzy graduates this year from just one day, to a whole week of sales.

Composite picture of advertising for Black Friday sales event November 2018 / Credit: News Now Finland

The Black Friday sales event might only have been introduced from America to Finland a few years ago, but now retailers are expanding their promotions to a whole Black Week of offers to tempt consumers to part with their cash.

Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving in the USA, has traditionally been the busiest day of the year for sales, and kicks off the Christmas shopping rush.

In Finland, big box store Gigantti reckon they were the first to import the tradition but their rivals Power and Verkkokauppa have been quick to catch up.

“Gigantti has done Black Friday since 2015 and I remember that year we were pretty much alone with our adverts. But last year and especially this year lots of retailers and operators have Black Friday campaigns, and I think that is very positive. It has very much become a big shopping day in Finland and Gigantti has done record sales each years” says Anniina Korpela, Gigantti’s spokesperson.

Last year the chain, with 41 stores across the country, set what they believe was a national sales record, shifting €21.3 million worth of products in just 24 hours. Their online sales in 2017 hit €1 million in the first seven minutes of trading alone.

“ has been participating in Black Friday for a few years now” explains Director of Marketing and Communications Seppo Niemelä.

“It did start as a very American shopping tradition, but has evolved into a global shopping phenomenon. Finnish consumers are pioneers in absorbing consumer behavior from abroad and it was imperative that we as a Finnish retail company are ahead of the curve […] it does drive our numbers up significantly, as these sales events become more familiar to consumers every year. This is the beginning of Christmas shopping” Niemelä tells News Now Finland

Television adverts for Black Friday in Gigantti / Credit: Gigantti

Expanding the day into a week-long event

After the initial success of Black Friday, both Verkkokauppa and Gigantti have expanded to a week of sales events, although the main focus is still on the Friday.

“This year our Black Friday lasts the whole week, it is similar to our past campaigns. We have over 1300 products on sale already and they are all our own stock. We don’t do special products for these campaign as we already have almost 70 000 products of which to choose from” explains Verkkokauppa’s Niemelä.

At Gigantti the biggest sellers this week are white goods like washing machines, freezers and dishwashers; but mobile phones, laptops, headphones, speakers and gaming consoles are also in demand.

“Black Week is a new thing for this year. We wanted to give some pre-offers but of course the main focus is on Friday” says Anniina Korpela, who adds that although people are buying new items this week, the store still sees more people waiting until December to buy Christmas gifts.

Explaining the consumer phenomenon

At Helsinki University’s Centre for Consumer Society ResearchEssi Pöyry studies consumer trends and noticed there was already a difference in the markets when Black Friday migrated from America to Finland a few years ago.

In the USA, there are often spot-sales in big box stores or department store chains,  whereas Finnish retailers had tended to concentrate their sales drives on just three or four times per year.

“In the States, regardless of the day or time of year you go into a store there’s a sales person coming to you, and letting you know for example all the bags are 20% off today, and I think that way to get discounts and attracting more customers has become more commonplace” says Pöyry.

“But sale or discount days are such an attractive way to attract customers and get them interested, it makes companies think how they can use that strategy more often and in a more versatile way, so companies have started doing more specific product discounting, not just general sales, and they want to use these special shopping days like Black Friday” she tells News Now Finland.

Advert for Gigantti’s Singles Day event / Credit: Gigantti

Adding new sales events 

Keen to now get those customers through the doors more and more often, Finnish shopping centres and individual retailers are looking to copy even more international sales events.

Earlier this month Gigantti had their sophomore Singles Day sale. It’s the world’s busiest shopping day, celebrated originally in China. And it was a hit for the Finnish retailer too, as they saw a 20% increase in weekend sales year-on-year, with televisions, mobile phones and headphones among the most popular items.

The company saw a clear spike in online traffic too, immediately at midnight when the sales promotion prices went into effect with online orders up 25% from the previous year, the first time they had trialed Singles Day in Finland – even rolling out adverts on the dating app Tinder to attract more attention from single Finns.

“We are following very closely what happens in retail and marketing worldwide, and of course Black Friday, Singles Day, Cyber Monday are big in the outside world and we want to bring the trends into Finland” says Gigantti’s Korpela.

In the last few years some shopping centres in Helsinki have promoted special sales for shoppers during the Muslim festival of Ramadan as well.

Re-selling Black Week items

People flock to these special sales events because they become ‘destinations’ in their own right, explains Helsinki University’s Essi Pöyry. Families might go to a big box store to pick up one or two items, and end up browsing after work on a Friday.

“In research it’s been noted that these Black Friday events, especially in America, are a way to spend time together and be together” she says.

And the ease in which people can sell unwanted items afterwards on online stores could be a factor in splurging on an expensive purchase during the sales.

“People make impulse purchases which they regret, they don’t make rational decisions […] we did a study on luxury purchasing and we found that people had an increased urge to impulse purchases because they knew they could always resell this stuff, they see no risk to buying it, if they know they can sell it a few days later and get their money back”.