Nov. 10--Black Friday, my how you've grown.
Once an event on the day after Thanksgiving -- and the traditional start of holiday shopping -- this year, you've grown into a two-month season of nonstop door buster deals, super sales and early early-bird specials.
"It's not a start or an ending to anything like it used to be," said Ken Nisch, chairman of JGA, a branding and retail design firm in Southfield. "We're in a whole new territory."
And while we may complain that Black Friday has no boundaries, holds nothing sacred -- not even our Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family -- the truth is many of us will ditch our loved ones (or take a few along with us) to dance and deal with the retail monster we've created.
This year, 38% of shoppers are likely to shop on Thanksgiving Day or night, according to a survey by Accenture, a management consulting company. Add to that: 55% of shoppers are likely to hit the stores on the day after Thanksgiving, compared to 44% in 2011.
Even though more shoppers are expected to be shopping, their overall holiday season spending isn't expected to be much more than it was in 2012.
Stores know this and are working harder to lure shoppers. Shoppers know this, and are being picky. And this is how Black Friday morphed into a season that starts Nov. 1 and ends Jan. 1.
A different world
Once upon a time, stores closed on Thanksgiving and families and friends went to the parade or football game or grandma's and ate and argued and studied store circulars before heading out about 5 a.m. on Black Friday, full of anticipation.
Then, in the 1990s, technology happened. Amazon.com opened for business in 1995. The Internet allowed us to shop at home on Thanksgiving Day. Now Wi-Fi and smartphones allow us to shop anywhere -- the parade, the game, the car, grandma's house.
We love spending the holiday shopping online for many reasons, including that we're easily bored.
"We are just so wired and connected to everything that is going on. We just don't know how to deal with the idle time because we're so conditioned to being entertained or active or interactive every waking minute," Nisch said.
"Christmas or Thanksgiving are what used to be the white space. I don't think the consumer is wired to have that white space," he added.
Since 2008-'09, when stores were forced to sell off merchandise at huge discounts because the economy took a downturn, we have become increasingly deal-oriented. We expect more things to be on sale at bigger discounts than ever before. According to Accenture, 62% of shoppers said they need a discount of 30% or more to persuade them to make a purchase.
"To me, 25% off isn't that big of a deal," said Lisa Benedict, a bargain shopper whose attitude about what constitutes a deal changed, in part, because of the sizable discounts retailers offer all year. There's a sale every day -- you don't have to wait till after Christmas to get ornaments half off anymore. You don't have to wait until September to get a good deal on a swimsuit, or until May to get a good deal on a winter coat.
Benedict knows that in many cases, she's going to get additional percentages off her purchases because of coupons and other incentives -- a practice stores have become really good at doing. "To move me to even look for my keys, it's got to be 40% off or more.
"I do get the paper on (Thanksgiving) morning, and after everything's in the oven, I sit down with a Sharpie and circle what stores are going to offer and see what I can find online -- the pricing online, compared to the actual sale. I want as much bang for my buck as I can possibly get," said Benedict, who is 47, has two teenage daughters and lives in Oakland Township. "I have to look at what's being offered -- can I get this anywhere else?"
A rush from the crush
The desire for the best deal possible is what gets people to the stores on Thanksgiving Day.
"They're afraid of missing something," said Nisch. "They're afraid of being afraid of missing something. 'If I don't go, what might I not see that I would have seen if I do go?' "
Michael Bernacchi, a University of Detroit Mercy marketing professor is more blunt: "We are an addictive society. We're addicted to shopping. We're addicted to thinking we're getting the best deal.
"If nobody shopped on Thanksgiving, (stores) wouldn't open," Bernacchi said "They would forget about it."
Plus, he said, there's a social aspect to shopping on the holiday that can't be beat. "Part of the experience, being in there with the shoppers, you can't get that online. The whole idea -- the feel, the sounds, everything."
Most analysts are predicting small increases in holiday spending this year -- the National Retail Federation is expecting a 3.9%-increase in holiday season spending while predicting shoppers will spend 2% less on gifts, decor and greeting cards.
Our growing savvy in seeking out deals, comparing prices, invoking price matching from competitors, and the sheer volume of places to shop creates increased competition from stores to grab what they can from us. In most cases, spending won't go up tremendously, and stores need to lure us in.
Starting a Black Friday sale early, turning Black Friday into a season instead of a single event, gives a retailer an advantage. Shoppers respond to the phrase Black Friday.
"A lot of people are predicting a tough Christmas. First mover gets the pocketbook," said Nisch, referring to establishing an early Black Friday presence.
Amazon already started its Countdown to Black Friday sales, telling shoppers, "Since you"re already here, looking for Black Friday deals, we kicked off the deals a little early." Friday's deals included a garbage disposal for 62% off, a Calvin Klein robe for girls for 52% off and a Dell desktop computer for 26% off.
And for the first time ever, www.walmart.com decided to put items on sale Nov. 1 -- like a 10-inch tablet for $49 and a 42-inch JVC LED TV for $299. It had been saving those things for Thanksgiving weekend.
Nov. 1 is "historically when we see a spike in our traffic," on Walmart.com, said Jaeme Laczkowski, director of media relations for Walmart. "For us, it made a lot of sense."
At the same time, if every day is Black Friday, will the sales on Thanksgiving and the day after Thanksgiving lose their power?
"It may start early, but it's still Black Friday," said Britt Beemer, chairman of America's Research Group, which tracks consumer behavior. "It's tradition, it's something that's unique in the country."
Even if it is the monster that ate Thanksgiving.
(c)2013 the Detroit Free Press
Visit the Detroit Free Press at www.freep.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
Original headline: Black Friday gobbles up Thanksgiving - and grows into a 2-month season
Most Popular Stories
- Chobani Counters Competition With Expanded Lineup
- Reid: Bundy Backers Are 'Domestic Terrorists'
- Ex-BP Employee Settles Insider Trading Charges
- Venture Investments in U.S. Highest Since 2001
- Colo. Cleantech Program Calls for Entrepreneurs
- Unemployment Rates Down, Job Gains Up in March
- Hiring Fair for Veterans, Job Seekers
- VW Beetle Marks 65th Year in U.S.
- The Biebs Crashes Drake's Release Party
- 8 Million Signups Put Obamacare Ahead of Predictions