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Black Friday: May You Finally Shop in Peace

Black Friday has traditionally been the day that retailers and consumers gleefully mark on their calendars. Since its inception in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Black Friday has been considered the blast-off point for the holiday season, ushering in bountiful sales as consumers fall for the frenzy of “door-buster” deals. This formerly one-day sales event transformed the holiday shopping landscape and begat an unprecedented form of retail hysteria never before seen. However, with holiday sales and promotions now seemingly foisted upon consumers as early as Halloween, Black Friday has all but lost its mantle as the most profitable retail sales day of the holiday season. What was once considered the kick-off to the holiday season has now been relegated to just another day in the retail calendar as more and more retailers vie for the almighty dollar earlier than before and shift their Black-Friday promotions to online platforms.

The erosion of Black Friday is due, in large part, to retailers launching their promotional sales (both online and in stores) well before the traditional Black Friday shopping day and to consumers’ omnichannel behavior. At one point in time, Black Friday promotions did not begin until the midnight following Thanksgiving; however, this all changed once major retail giants (e.g., Walmart, Macy’s and Overstock) began opening their doors on Thanksgiving day, causing other retailers to follow their lead just to keep up. The advent of Cyber Monday, Black Friday weekends, Amazon’s 12 Days of Deals and Overstock’s Black Friday “sneak-peek” sale (which began earlier this month) has also diluted the value of Black Friday and has given rise to an ever-evolving (and extended) holiday shopping season, one where retailers cannot bank on Black Friday being the golden calf of the holiday shopping season. Ironically, retailers’ relentless desire for more holiday profits by offering Black-Friday type markdowns many weeks prior to Black Friday has led to sales fatigue and has fostered a belief among consumers that sales are a dime a dozen, which has diminished consumers’ urgency to make purchases on this particular day.

The convenience of mobile shopping and e-commerce has also contributed to the demise of Black Friday. For many consumers, the thought of standing in long lines while fending off other consumers for “must-have” items is equivalent to a no-holds barred UFC event and sends chills up their spines. Many consumers have chosen to abandon the traditional Black Friday shopping marathon for the comfort of in-home purchases from their mobile devices or computers. Although big promotions like Black Friday admittedly generate buzz among consumers, Black Friday discounts over the last few years have not piqued shoppers’ interest enough to curtail the recent slide in retailers’ in-store profit margins. With all of the hype surrounding Black Friday, consumers expect bargain basement prices yet many consumers are left underwhelmed by the sales prices offered in stores. Mobile technology plays a major role in this shift towards e-commerce, since consumers can easily comparison-shop from their couch and avoid the anxiety-inducing in-store experience. As the mobile shopping experience improves with time, the notion of a one-day in store-sale may fade into oblivion.

Black Friday and all of the hoopla surrounding it may not be what it once was, but that’s okay, because what we have today is a more fluid shopping experience that allows consumers to shop online or in-store on their own terms and, most importantly, in peace. Retailers that embrace this fundamental transformation in consumers’ holiday-shopping behavior, and strike a balance between the online and in-store experience, will emerge as the true winners of the holiday season.

Related topics: Retail, Retail Sales