November 23, 2015

British bookstores respond to Black Friday with “Civilised Saturday”


This year, keep it civilised.

This year, keep it civilised.

Every year, Black Friday sales remind us that to be American is to love a good deal. (Indeed, here at Melville House, we’ve got our very own Black Friday sale coming up on Thursday—a day early!)

But Americans aren’t the only people who enjoy deals. In recent years, Black Friday has become increasingly popular in the UK, as well, which has led to some predictable results. According to The Bookseller‘s Lisa Campbell:

Coinciding with the final pre-Christmas pay weekend for most people, last year [Black Friday] received widespread press attention when at least three people were arrested and police were called to supermarkets amid fears of crowd surges as shoppers tussled to get the best deals.

Crowd surges! Tussles! Arrests! How American.

But not everyone in Great Britain is eager to celebrate freedom through frenzied consumption. The Guardian‘s Alison Flood reports that around 100 independent booksellers are participating in a more high-minded alternative to Black Friday, which has been given the most British name ever: “Civilised Saturday.” The initiative was originally proposed in September by the Bookseller Association‘s president, Tim Walker.

Civilised Saturday means fewer crowd surges, fewer arrests, more sophistication, and more . . . mince pies? The Guardian reports:

Mince pies, mulled wine, art and singing will be on offer at Burway Books in Church Stretton, there’ll be poetry readings at a “sophisticated soiree” in Walsall’s Southcart Books, and at the Edinburgh Bookshop, staff on the day will be dressed in cocktail outfits, complete with evening gloves, and giving out “genteel” snacks and drinks to customers.

Both the Guardian and the Bookseller have additional details on the kinds of things British bookstores have planned—prosecco is involved, as are hand massages and a green armchair. It’s all very civilized civilised, and all very much unlike what you’ll probably see at your local Walmart on Friday morning.



Mark Krotov is senior editor at Melville House.