AT first glance it looks just like any normal shopping centre would on the last Friday of November.
The tinsel’s here, so is the croaky Christmas music, fairylights and fanfare. Bright red posters are splashed across every store front, ready to coax customers in with discounts of up to 70%, and dozens of shop assistance are lined up to stuff bargains into overflowing bags.
The countdown to December 25 is on – but despite the surplus of Black Friday deals – Christmas shopping has lost its sparkle this year.
At La Cañada in Marbella, the largest shopping centre on the Costa del Sol, shoppers are nowhere to be seen.
The mammoth indoor space is mostly empty, save for the Christmas decorations and a handful of masked shoppers.
“The shops are empty. I’ve never seen it so quiet on Black Friday,” said Russian expat Galina, 21.
“Usually there are queues everywhere but the only place with people lining up is the Apple Store, though that is not unusual” she adds. “I’m not worried about COVID but clearly a lot of people are staying at home this year.”
Meanwhile Brit Mandy, who has lived in Marbella for over 50 years, prefers the ease of shopping instore rather than online.
“I’m 74 so I know it might be a bit risky to be here but I need to see things in order to buy them,” she said. “I actually didn’t know there was a sale on so this has been a nice surprise.”
British expat Jan, 64, agreed that buying instore was her preference but that she was in the minority, with most people preferring to shop virtually.
“I just wanted to have a browse and get some ideas for Christmas,” she said. “I was surprised by how quiet the shops have been.”
It’s a similarly grim situation in Puerto Banus the Matina Mall and across the road at El Corte Ingles, with almost every floor vacant of shoppers despite mammoth deals on offer.
With so few customers, many of the concession stands and beauty counters are left unmanned.
“I only popped in because I had an appointment nearby and needed to kill some time,” said Brazilian expat Renata. “It’s sad to see the shops so empty but it makes sense that people don’t want to be outside if they don’t have to be.
“No one has as much money as they did last year but maybe they will be shopping online.”
But despite the decline in footfall is some good news for struggling retailers, as experts predict Black Friday sales will be at an all time high thanks to online shopping.
Neus Soler, professor of Economics and Business Studies at the Open University of Catalonia (UOC) said research indicates that 40% of Spaniards will shop the Black Friday sales – an increase from 33% the previous year.
He said frustrations surrounding the virus are likely to cause people to spend more than in previous years, with ‘the feeling of worthiness’ likely to spur on sales.
Shoppers on Black Friday are more female (54%) than male (44%), according to Google.
Soler has said that this is because women are usually responsible for acquiring a wide variety of products for themselves and for the family as a whole.
However, the report of the technology giant indicates that men spend an average of €200 euros, more than women who will spend €160.
The forecast comes as Spanish retailers announced a decline in sales from the previous year.
Across all stores shopper numbers last month were down 2.7% compared to the previous year, according to National Statistics Institute (INE) data.