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John Henderson
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The Briefcase: Black Friday, Europe vs Google and sweet broadband dreams

This was the week in business.

SHOPPING, IT’S THE global pastime.

But until recently, the US feeding frenzy of the Black Friday sale was yet to fly far afield from its North American home. Until local retailers realised the untapped money-making potential in a big pre-Christmas spending binge, that is.

While traditionally it has been the post-holiday sales, starting from their apex on St Stephen’s Day and continuing into the New Year, that have hoovered up most of the discounts, lots of Irish retailers have jumped on the Black Friday bandwagon this year.

Read on for a recap of everything that has been ringing cash registers as takes a look back at the week in business:

Need to know

Another dubious American tradition has made its way to Ireland

Black Friday, in the US, is generally accepted as the day otherwise reasonable people take leave of their senses and trample one another nearly to death in a stampeding orgy of discount shopping.

OK, so that’s a slight exaggeration – but one not altogether removed from reality. The day immediately following Thanksgiving, after families have gorged on turkey, football and parades, has long been earmarked for some serious shopping. To put things in perspective, last year US consumers spent over $57 billion (€45.8 billion in today’s money) on Black Friday.

Never keen to be left too far behind their North American cousins, retailers in Ireland – from Brown Thomas to the Body Shop – have joined the party with their own, one-day discounts.

Across the channel, Black Friday already has a stronger foothold with many stores across the UK opening at midnight for people who can’t wait until daybreak to get their wallets out. And cue scenes like this:

To further confuse things, another sale day – Cyber Monday – has been added to the retail calendar, this time for online bargains.

But with last month’s sales figures showing spending was up 3.8% in the year to September when compared to 2013 numbers, you can hardly blame local stores for wanting to make the most of consumers’ returning appetite after struggling to stay afloat during the recession.

Perhaps a sign of returning confidence in the retail business, this week it was revealed that Dublin’s premier shopping strip, Grafton Street, was back to full occupancy as the remaining two, vacant units were leased.

It won’t be long now…

Nice to know

  • An ambitious plan for rural broadband in Ireland was announced, or should we say re-announced. The government released a map of the locations which would need state intervention to get broadband services, an area covering about 700,000 premises across the republic. It also pledged that every home, business and school in Ireland would be connected – but unfortunately with little accompanying detail on how, when or what it would all cost
  • The European parliament voted to break up Google, but don’t expect that to change anything. In a symbolic move, because the officials have no power to order the tech giant to separate its many wings, European politicians called on the EU to consider forcing all search engines (which really means Google) to split their commercial services from other parts of the businesses

Google Animated GIF Giphy Giphy

Now you know

Balbriggan Robert Purfield Robert Purfield

  • Big US medical-technology firm Medtronic has been given official approval to buy out rival Covidien in a move which will involve the larger firm shifting its executives and tax base to Ireland. The deal, worth about €34 billion, will unite two players which both already have significant operations in the Republic
  • European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker proclaimed “Christmas has come early” as he unveiled a €315 billion investment plan for Europe. But the scheme, which carries only €21 billion in actual government funding, fwas panned as being “too little, too late” to revive moribund eurozone economies

France EU Christian Lutz / AP/Press Association Images Christian Lutz / AP/Press Association Images / AP/Press Association Images

One for the road

It was pitched as the “ultimate in immersive gaming”, a controller which siphoned off a player’s blood every time their virtual self took a hit on the screen.

According to Canadian startup Blood Sport, the gooey red stuff would then be collected, sorted and donated to a blood bank – where the special controllers would be set up as part of the scheme.

Sounds like a great idea, right? Crowdfunding site Kickstarter didn’t think so, suspending the project after a week of fundraising in which it raised about CAD$3390 towards its $250,000 goal.

Brand & Grotesque / YouTube

Originally published at 1.02pm yesterday

READ: Not-so-Irish brands, Sweden’s helping hand and Darth Vader’s deep pockets >

READ: Grilled bankers, Taylor Swift and Alibaba’s treasure trove >

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