How Black Friday works in Mexico

In the spirit of national independence, I give you this credit card.
In the spirit of national independence, I give you this credit card.
Image: Reuters/Henry Romero
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It’s another example of just how irresistible American consumer culture is to economies around the globe. Mexico’s version of Black Friday, better known in the country as El Buen Fin (“the good weekend”), wrapped up on Nov. 18 with much success. Eighty-thousand retailers in Mexico City took part in the event, which grossed an estimated 160,000 million pesos ($12 billion) in sales this year, a roughly 10% jump from 2012.  

Despite piggybacking on an American tradition, Mexico’s Black Friday has some unique traits:

  • It’s more like Black Weekend. Mexico’s Black Friday is actually Black Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday and has been referred to as “the cheapest weekend of the year.” While discounts in the US are often extended well beyond Black Friday, especially since the advent of Cyber Monday in 2010, the bulk of heavy, location-based discounts come and go that Friday.   
  • It’s pegged to Revolution Day, not Thanksgiving. El Buen Fin happens on the day commemorating Mexico’s 1910 revolution, which each year coincides with Thanksgiving in the US.
  • The discounts aren’t as big or attractive. Discounts during Mexico’s sale weekend rarely reach the 70% and 80% drops seen in the US, according to Euromonitor. Many stores advertise sales of up to 50% off, but even these are usually only for a handful of items. And most of what’s discounted is often what’s not moving off the shelves. By contrast, in the US, retailers use the event to roll out hot new holiday season toys.
  • The markdowns may be exaggerated. Many stores in Mexico have been accused of marking up products in advance (link in Spanish) of the weekend, and then discounting them to match regular prices. This practice isn’t unheard of—US retailers are guilty of it, too—but in Mexico the practice is specific to its Black Friday.
  • The Mexican government takes part. Mexico’s government, which launched the event in 2011 with one of the country’s big retail associations, considers the event a mini-stimulus for its struggling economy. This year, the government tempted consumers with $19 million in prizes (reimbursements of up to 10,000 pesos for purchases made during El Buen Fin) and dolled out its usual year-end public sector bonuses a week before the event (on Nov. 15).