BLACK FRIDAY: THE SHIFT FROM FRENZY TO FOREGONE
by UM MASH
There are many myths about Black Friday–namely that it is the only time a company goes from being in the red (operating at a loss) to being in the black (operating at a profit). However, it actually has a more nuanced, and darker history. In the 1950s, the day after Thanksgiving in Philadelphia was always hectic, as the big Army-Navy game was played that upcoming Saturday. Cops had to take extra shifts to try and outnumber the hordes, but chaos nevertheless ensued. During said chaos, shoplifters would often loot stores.
However, by 1961, stores tried to rebrand what was known as “Black Friday” into “Big Friday” where they would embrace the bedlam and promote their products. “Black Friday” was then reclaimed, with the myth of the loss/profit explanation as its backing, and it began to catch on throughout the country in the 1980s. It became about slashing deals to encourage holiday shopping.
However, in the past generation, Black Friday has morphed from a one day craze to a multi-day shopping stroll. It started with Cyber Monday; it got its name in 2005 after researchers noted the Monday following Black Friday had a great deal of online shopping traffic the previous year. The shopping holiday has grown exponentially, with last year’s total sales estimated to be upwards of $10 billion (CNBC). Besides this, in-person shopping has also shifted. Stores began opening earlier and earlier on Black Friday, to then opening at midnight, to finally opening Thanksgiving evening. This makes Black Friday typically, at the minimum, four days.
But even then, the holiday has stretched further. Many companies have begun doing deals all of November, slowly rolling out unbeatable sales far before the turkey has even been put in the oven. Target rolled out its Black Friday deals in October, as did Kohl’s, and Amazon had an October Prime Day, the first ever to occur for the company.
Analysts believe this year will be especially early for a number of reasons. The first is that as consumer spending has been down, they will try to clear out inventory through these deals. Further, with many consumers’ fears of inflation playing a factor in shopping, longer promotions might encourage shoppers to take the plunge. They will also be offering more layaway programs, which is a similar trend to post-2008 recession selling strategies.
As with last year, it’s very likely that online shopping will still dominate in person sales; from 2019 to 2021, in person sales dropped 28%, which was deeply connected to pandemic fears. Still, many are realizing that they prefer the ease of online shopping compared to a one or two day rush at a physical store. The drawn out deals retailers are employing this year will likely increase foot traffic to stores, mitigating people’s concerns over the sometimes violent Black Friday crowds.
But, the months-long “Black Friday” suggests that soon, the concept might be transformed to a sale season, rather than a weekend of deals. Though tradition might make some sad to not have the thrill of standing in line for hours to bum-rush the store, this will likely lead to more overall gross profit, as stores need to liquidate their inventory.