Why some U.K. bookstores are forgoing one of the busiest shopping days of the year for something decidedly less chaotic.
Image via (cc) Flickr user workinpana
Black Friday is nigh, and with it the annual ritual of big savings, big crowds, and the inevitable “tsk tsk tsk”-ing over footage of the latter clobbering one another to get to the former. What once was the simple start of the holiday shopping season has mutated into a bacchanal of consumer confidence in which 20, 30, or 40 percent off becomes a rallying cry for throngs of deal-hungry shoppers, ready to risk life and limb to get their hands on the best discounts of the year.
If it all feels a little too frenzied, a little too hectic and corporate and product-driven for your liking, you’re not alone. In the U.K. a growing number of bookstores have devised an antidote to the hurried rush of Black Friday: “Civilised Saturday”: an opportunity to slow down, sip some wine, and—what else?—read a book.
Created by the Booksellers Association of the United Kingdom and Ireland, “Civilised Saturday is,” they explain on their website, “intended as a restorative to Black Friday, the now-traditional retail scrum that kicks off the Christmas shopping season.” Participating bookstores will spend the day setting a decidedly less-frenetic mood by playing classical music, serving glasses of wine, or even offering hand massages, reportsThe Guardian.
Jasmine Denholme, whose Wenlock Books will be participating in the November 28 event, told thebookseller.com: “We are going to have a pleasant afternoon in the bookshop, celebrating, handing out prosecco and, in the afternoon, we will have an afternoon tea, handing out cakes and fresh coffee.”
As the Booksellers Association’s Alan Staton explained to The Guardian, the event was specifically created to be the antithesis of Black Friday's focus on deals. “It’s about discounts, it’s about a feeding frenzy,” he said. “So we said, why don’t we have a ‘Civilised Saturday’ which shows that what booksellers offer is an informed, civilised environment for people to make purchases. It may be for people who have gone through Black Friday and need some R&R afterwards, or for those who shun it for a more civilised alternative.”
There is a certain sense of specifically English pride involved in the event, a backlash to what’s perceived as the American vibe of Black Friday, a fairly new addition to the British calendar. “Black Friday appeared quite suddenly in the U.K., and since it’s an American tradition following on from Thanksgiving, it doesn’t mean anything to us,” Denholme told The Guardian. “It’s become a day of chaos and that’s not at all how we feel shopping should be. Christmas shopping should be a luxury where customers can take the time to find the perfect gift.” It’s a sentiment that seems to be shared, with over 100 book retailers reportedly participating in Civilised Saturday.
Unfortunately, Civilised Saturday appears to be limited—as an “official” function, at least—to U.K. booksellers. That doesn’t mean, however, that those of us stateside can’t participate in spirit. Whether you’re looking for a respite from the post-Thanksgiving madness, or just need something new to read during that inevitable airport delay, why not spend some time at an independent bookstore? After all, according to the Booksellers Association, it’s the civilized thing to do.