A National Shopping Holiday – Black Friday (or Thursday)

black friday

It is hard to believe, given all the hype, that the concept of Black Friday (or now Thursday) as a national shopping holiday did not exist 30 years ago. The term Black Friday referring to the day after Thanksgiving did not exist 50 years ago. Yet, the concept has crept into the lexicon and wallets of Americans (and particularly store marketing execs). Now, as people bemoan the creep of the store specials onto Thanksgiving day and earlier, it is hard to imagine a more American or capitalist tradition.

Stores of every type are getting in the Black Friday cash register ringing action. Even in Colorado, recreational marijuana shops are reportedly hoping for a “green Friday” filled with bargain hunters who are eager to stake out the hot deals or advertised door busters.

The concept of “Door Buster” sale items to draw crowds into a store reportedly goes back to the 1890s. Door buster sale items began being advertised nearly 100 years ago (1917) to encourage people to be at a store at opening time. Now, the pile of ads in newspapers and bombardment on television draws competitive crowds eager to grab the hot ticket Black Friday sale item at amazing prices.

Countless employees of stores everywhere are spending today deboxing merchandise and completely rearranging their sales floors (if they did not get a jump on it and switch out “end cap” displays at the end of aisles on Wednesday). Many, like Target and Walmart, will simply add cardboard displays to major walkways that will feature the hot items, loss leaders and best buys that are either expected to drive traffic into the store or they are trying to clear out. Another trick is to not replenish some areas of a store during the week to make it easier to pull items off the shelves and put sales items on in highly trafficked parts of a store.

New signage is being carefully placed in stores today for the onslaught tomorrow (or now Thanksgiving night in the growing number large retail chains seeking that extra day of sales from people wants to get out after the big meal). The one-day shopping blitz is now a 30-hour ongoing one in many stores. People develop shopping strategies with family members to perpetuate the insanity and ensure they scoop up limited-stock deals on opposite ends of a store or mall, and claim a place in the check-out line.

While it might have been a day off school or work in the past filled with relatives and leftovers, the concept of the day after Thanksgiving as a time of mall mania has become ingrained in the culture. Black Friday (and now Thursday night) has become a national holiday of shopping holiday in which retailers hope to get further in the black. So, for those reading this article, the mall (or for those still in their pjs, many on-line stores with comparable bargains) is awaiting. Let the shopping begin.

By Dyanne Weiss

Wall Street Journal
San Francisco Gate
CBS Denver

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