We stay out of stores on the Friday after Thanksgiving. Turns out we are not unusual, many more stay away than go shopping. Friday after Thanksgiving has long been called ‘Black Friday.’ The rise of 24 hour cable news with lots of hours to fill no doubt helped it become a major media event. Anyway, Amy Merrick in the New Yorker helps make some sense of Black Friday and puts it in perspective:
“It turns out that a lot of what we’re told about Black Friday is invented by retailers and the marketing experts they hire. Retailers like Black Friday because the earlier customers start their holiday shopping, the more they are likely to spend over all. This year, the competition is heightened because of a relatively short window between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In search of holiday-season profits, retailers work to exploit people’s worries about missing a good deal—and the media, looking for a fun story, joins in.
Though local television news cameras dutifully scan the lines of bundled shoppers waiting in lawn chairs outside their favorite stores, reinforcing the notion that shopping on Black Friday is obligatory, increasing numbers of Americans are opting out. A Nielsen survey published November 18th reported that only thirteen per cent of consumers plan to visit a store this Friday, down from seventeen per cent last year and continuing a four- year slide that has been largely precipitated by the growth of online shopping—which, of course, now has its own marketer-created term, Cyber Monday.
Black Friday doesn’t even necessarily offer the best discounts, contrary to what retailers want their customers to believe. Rather than selling most merchandise at full price and marking down what doesn’t sell, stores now engineer their prices, so that the “discounted” prices are actually at the level they had wanted all along. Some “door-buster” items, in limited quantities, lure people into stores. Many gifts, though, have lower price tags at other times. The consumer-price research firm Decide Inc. analyzed data for the Wall Street Journal last year and found that Elmo dolls, Ugg boots, Samsung TVs, and KitchenAid stand mixers were less expensive on other days. (Decide closed its services in September, after being purchased by eBay.) Consumer Reports indicates that many home appliances and small consumer electronics are cheapest in December.
Last year, Black Friday was the busiest day for shoppers visiting stores, according to ShopperTrak, a Chicago firm that tallies the numbers of people visiting retailers. But there were plenty of procrastinators, too: the Saturday before Christmas was the second-busiest day. In fact, four of the ten biggest shopping days this year are expected to come in the week leading up to Christmas, ShopperTrak projected. It’s harder for retailers to plan for that wave of spending late in the season, so they focus instead on enticing shoppers to buy on Black Friday, locking in their profits weeks earlier. (The amount spent on TV ads promoting Black Friday reached eleven million dollars last year, according to Nielsen, nearly five times the 2011 total.)”
Remember gifts from the heart are worth more than anything else. I will have a suggestion tomorrow for what I believe is a truly great gift.