Monday Author: Susanne Skinner
There is nothing wimpy about me when it comes to shopping. Sale is my favorite four-letter word. I know brand names, list prices, and a bargain when I see one. But holiday shopping, especially the Black Friday kind, takes sale to a completely new level.
Black Friday shopping is in a class by itself. Images of women fighting over Cabbage Patch dolls and Tickle Me Elmo Muppets call to mind hard-core holiday shoppers who don’t take no for an answer. Stores create instant chaos and desperation rears its head when thousands of people fight over limited inventory. It’s called the Black Friday Effect, and it’s two weeks away.
As the holidays approach, I become a stay-at-home shopper. A comfortable chair, a fully charged laptop and something nice to drink is all I need. My fear of Black Friday is enough to strip the joy from brick and mortar holiday shopping.
Black Friday Creep
The Friday after Thanksgiving is the official start of holiday shopping. Businesses use it to kick off the busiest and most lucrative time of the retail year. Purchases account for up to forty percent of their annual sales.
The trend of not opening on Thanksgiving, allowing workers to spend time with family, is declining. Stores tout openings that range from 6:00 p.m. to midnight on Thanksgiving Day and as early as 5:00 a.m. on Friday. Many ignore the holiday and remain open all-day Thursday. Lines form, tempers rise, and security triples. It’s a take-no-prisoners shopping throw down. The day we used to call Thanksgiving is now the springboard for the busiest shopping day of the year. Say hello to Black Friday creep.
Black Friday Fight Club
Deeply discounted merchandise lures people into stores, believing there is enough for everyone. There isn’t, and the siren song of a $50 flat screen television turns normal people into fight-club zombies. The day after giving thanks, they come prepped for mortal combat.
While some people (like me) are considering a second slice of pie, the die-hard Black Friday shoppers memorize store layouts, form defensive lines and charge up their tasers. It’s an everyone-for-themselves assault when the front doors open.
This is not my idea of a good time. These shoppers play to win. People suffer injuries as greed and commercialism replace the gravitas of giving thanks. I have seen it, and it’s not pretty. Once in a great while a retailer with a heart honors sale pricing if the item is out of stock.
Exaggerated discounts and limited-time offers motivate the normally calm consumer to fight for the deal of the decade. Retailers want you to believe Black Friday pricing will vanish when the day ends. Creating a now-or-never frenzy is part of the BF vibe, and shoppers embrace it.
Black Friday Deals
There was a time, minus the taser, when I actually did this. There is no prize big enough to tempt me; but I enjoyed the thrill. Black Friday was an adventure—a shared experience with my women friends. We rallied at 5:30 a.m., bundled against the cold and full of post-Thanksgiving energy. Bargains abound, and we love an outing (in the most non-violent way) that channels friendship and holiday spirit.
Our girl-powered team knows how to make a ritual of shopping. We write up lists of stores with hot deals, save each other places in the checkout line, and share discount coupons. Around 11:00 a.m., we call it quits and go out for brunch.
Holiday shopping can be a good experience if you avoid long lines for “deals” and the big-box stores. These prices, apart from a few loss leaders, are not one-day only deals. Malls offer more variety but parking is a nightmare. Local businesses, my personal preference, cater to local people.
For the faint of heart, there is always the Internet, a 24/7 mecca of shopping choices. Point. Click. Pay.
Too Legit to Quit
Black Friday, along with Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, are here to stay. I am not advocating their discontinuance because they support the economy, especially for small, locally owned businesses.
Consumers drive retail trends. Suppliers simply give the customer what they ask for. The holidays provide a perfect storm, convincing buyers to spend more while saving more. It’s a double-edged sword for merchants who drastically lower prices, then suffer long-term financial consequences.
Deep discounts are dangerous. Offering too many negates November and December profit margins with non-recoverable losses. Short-term thinking drives one-time-only pricing, limited quantity and time-bound deals. Overall, this strategy backfires as consumers become complacent, refusing to pay retail prices.
The Online Alternative
The preference for online shopping stems from a desire to avoid the actual shopping experience. Holiday chaos is absent in the world of e-commerce. Even returns are easy if you are an Amazon Prime member. In fact, many shoppers prefer Amazon Prime Day, which happens in July, to traditional Black Friday shopping.
Surviving Black Friday
Black Friday is one of the most dangerous days of the year. It isn’t just the start of the Holiday Shopping Season; it’s the start of the most stressful, anxiety producing, budget draining, personality altering, and impulse-buying season.
If you must shop on Black Friday, go in with a plan. Then get out and go home. May the odds be ever in your favor.