Holidays, gift giving and online sales in European markets

Holidays – days full of traditions and customs that we look forward to throughout the year, especially if it also means we get time off work – are not only a wonderful opportunity to get together with family and friends, but a great business opportunity as well.

We’re all familiar with special Christmas and New Year’s offers, Women’s Day discounts and the big Black Friday sales that have become popular in recent years and are advertised virtually everywhere: in newspapers, on TV, the radio and the Internet, on billboards and posters.

During the pandemic, a big part of this has moved online, where shops offer a variety of festive deals to their customers.

However, the problem arises when online shops attempt to use the same campaign in all European markets.

Let’s take Mother’s Day as an example. If you promote special Mother’s Day gifts across all European markets around the time when the holiday is celebrated in Slovenia (i.e. 25 March), this is the only market that will yield results, as Slovenia is the only country that celebrates Mother’s Day in March and not in May like the rest of Europe.

To run a successful Mother’s Day campaign, you will need, in addition to finding out when in May the holiday is celebrated in each country, to research what gifts (if any) are customary.

In Portugal and Hungary, Mother’s Day is celebrated on the 1st Sunday in May, in Italy, Germany, Croatia and the Czech Republic on the 2nd Sunday, and in France on the last Sunday in May.

Promoting large and expensive gifts will most likely not bring you much success anywhere, as offering small ones, such as flowers, chocolates and as of late also jewelry and perfumes, is the norm in most countries.

These gifts are similar to the ones offered on Women’s Day, which has also recently been celebrated in Europe more and more (or less and less!).

In Croatia, Greece and France, the popularity of this holiday has been declining significantly, but the Germans, Czechs, Slovaks and Portuguese will undoubtedly appreciate special online offers.

In Romania, Women’s Day is interpreted as a kind of Mother’s Day, so make sure your offer includes gifts for mums. 

In addition to Black Friday, Cyber Monday, created specifically to make online shopping more mainstream, is also gaining in popularity.

Cyber Monday campaigns are already well known in Italy, Germany, Greece, France, Romania and Poland, while they are not that widespread in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, where Cyber Monday has been introduced only recently.

As with Black Friday, most countries have decided to keep the English version of the name, i.e. Cyber Monday. 

It is only translated into native languages in Slovenia, Croatia and Bulgaria, but the translations aren’t established yet, so you won’t go wrong even if you use the English version.

Sometimes the celebration of a particular holiday varies even within the same country. The first Christmas gift-bringer to visit Slovenian children at the beginning of December is Saint Nicholas.

This is where differences in gift-giving can already be observed, as in some families, St Nicholas is the most important bringer of gifts and responsible for bigger presents, while in other families his presents are smaller. The same is true in Germany, Croatia and Poland.

The situation is different In Italy and France, though, where Saint Nicholas only brings presents to children in certain regions.

Next there’s Santa Claus, who is considered the most important bringer of gifts in the Czech Republic, Poland, Portugal, Germany and Italy as well as Greece, which is actually an Orthodox country, but also celebrates Christmas on 25 December (the only holiday they celebrate according to the Julian calendar is Easter!).

As you can see, the holidays can be a great opportunity for businesses to offer all sorts of special deals and discounts, but you need to do some research before making them public.

Try to find out where a particular holiday is celebrated and whether its date varies from country to country.

Learn about each country’s gift-giving traditions and the kind of presents that are customary – are they larger, smaller, maybe even culturally specific? Do some countries forego gift-giving altogether?

And now for a final tip: in Italy, a special day dedicated to grandparents is celebrated on 2 October.

In Romania, celebrating name days is a popular tradition and shops run special daily promotions for people celebrating on that day.

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