Bleak Friday?

Were you one of the people who camped for twenty-two days outside of a Best Buy in anticipation of Black Friday sales? Your answer to that question this year likely would have been negative. As more and more people elect not to put themselves at risk of pneumonia from waiting for hours outdoors or of trampling when the doors do open, Black Friday may be losing its luster as the height of in-store shopping each year. With online sales being released earlier and earlier, coupled with growing stigma around Black Friday, there has been a steady year-over-year decline in foot traffic on this polarizing day.

If you went online to shop from major retailers on Thanksgiving day, you may have been surprised to find that you could use the promo code “BLACKFRIDAY” to purchase heavily discounted items in your cart. Online sales on Thanksgiving in the US alone totaled $3.7 billion on Thursday, up 28% from last year. Because these discounts are available so early, people are finishing their shopping beforehand and becoming less incentivized to brave the cold weather and large crowds on Black Friday. ShopperTrak backed up this claim in its report that there was a 1.7% decline in foot traffic on Black Friday, compared to that of last year.

Black Friday has also received a fair amount of negative press for its association with heavy consumerism, a claim that may very likely be warranted. Since 2006, there have been 12 deaths and 117 injuries occurring from trampling, or other accidents, on Black Friday. Valuing the opportunity to purchase a discounted television over a fellow shopper’s life is extremely jarring. This mindset is causing many to protest the hustle and bustle of physical shopping on this day, resorting to more classy means: Adobe Analytics reported Saturday that more customers are going to stores later in the day on Friday to get items they bought online. That trend contributed to a record $6.22 billion spent online on Friday, November 23rd, up nearly 24% from last year.

Not only is Black Friday attacked for its materialism, but critics also jab at its lack of respect towards family values. Shoppers who choose to camp outside of stores to chase deals, instead of spending time with their families on Thanksgiving, have been vilified. Plenty of chain stores have been criticized for opening earlier in the day, consequently depriving workers of family time on Thanksgiving. At bricks-and-mortar stores, the sales start before many families even serve up pumpkin pie! Places like Target and Best Buy opened at 5 pm this year, and Walmart started its big sale at 6 pm. In defiance of this trend, a growing number of retailers look to preserve family time by remaining closed on Thanksgiving, including wholesale clubs like Costco, Sam's Club and BJ's Wholesale Club.

Witnessing firsthand the physical flurry of customers running into stores on Black Friday for the first time is enough to entice many people, especially young adults, to experience the mayhem for themselves. There will always be some sort of allure to shopping in a state of pandemonium, no matter the danger it may provoke. Will you brave the physical and potentially literal storm on the next Black Friday?