Black Friday madness

Anne Shaffer
Assistant Features Editor

Along with turkey, cranberry sauce, and sweet potatoes, shopping on Black Friday is another popular Thanksgiving tradition practiced by a massive number of people across the country, often causing devastation in Wal-Marts and Targets nationwide.
Now, however, the popular shopping day is squashed between two new shopping holidays, commonly called Gray Thursday and Cyber Monday. Gray Thursday isn’t necessarily a new fad; according to the New York Daily News, Kmart started opening on Thanksgiving Day over 15 years ago. However, the term has only recently become popular. According to 2 Minute Finance, “Gray Thursday” as a term only really took hold a few years ago.
Unsurprisingly, Gray Thursday has caused some controversy. 2 Minute Finance says that in 2011, “some retailers experienced a public backlash…for requiring employees to work the evening of Thanksgiving, when many families are still enjoying a turkey dinner.”
According to a study done in 2007 by the Britt Beemer of America’s Research Group, only 11 percent of Americans will consider going out to shop on Thanksgiving Day, so retailers run a fairly significant risk by opening when people are unlikely to come out to shop. The same study says that more than half of Americans go out on Black Friday.

Black Friday crowds are notoriously large and occasionally violent.

Gray Thursday, according to the Chicago Tribune, is taking things a little too far for a great many Americans. In 2011, Anthony Hardwick, a Target employee, created an online petition called “Tell Target to Save Thanksgiving” and collected at least 200,000 signatures. Dozens of other petitions followed suit.
The Tribune also states that a study done by ConsumerSearch.com claims that 87 percent of people surveyed believe that stores should stay closed on Thanksgiving.
The Huffington Post says that Thanksgiving has now become a “staging area for Christmas shopping” and continues, very scathingly, “America’s retail industry…sees in every blank space a billboard, in every suburban meadow, a mall, in every screen—big or small—a banner ad. And in every ‘non-working’ holiday, a time for more shopping.”
It also places blame on companies for causing the “fanaticism” of Black Friday and the other new shopping holidays, using marketing to convince people that they need or want the things these retailers are selling.
However, Black Friday is an important time for retailers to rake in income for their employees and executives. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), holiday sales for 2012 are projected to rise 4.1 percent from last year and will total $586.1 billion if the NRF is correct.
The NRF also states that “the holiday season can represent anywhere between 20-40% of annual sales.” The holiday season includes 61 days from November to December and the holidays of Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. This year, there are three more days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than there were last year, making a total of 33, which gives shoppers an extra weekend to complete their shopping and wrapping.
Historically, Black Friday was officially coined in 1966 in an ad in the American Philatelist, a Philadelphia newspaper, but it has been the start of the holiday shopping season since the 1930s.
However, since the economic recession, bargain shopping has really become a priority to most shoppers; the tragedies, including stampedes and even shootings, on Black Friday can be attributed to frenzied shoppers seeking the greatest bargains.
Some of this problem could be alleviated, theoretically, by “Cyber Monday,” which is the first Monday after Thanksgiving. The term was only officially coined in 2005 and signifies the online shopping sales which take place on that day.
Shop.org published a press release in 2005 that stated, “While traditional retailers will be monitoring store traffic and sales on Black Friday…online retailers have set their sights on something different: Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, which is quickly becoming one of the biggest online shopping days of the year.”
CNN however, discredits this claim, saying that “Cyber Monday” is a “marketing gimmick,” at least according to some consumer electronics experts.
Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis at comScore, a company that monitors internet traffic, says that Cyber Monday has never been the biggest ecommerce sales day. Usually, he says in the CNN article “Why Cyber Monday’ is mostly myth” that a Monday in December is usually the biggest day for ecommerce. Probably, this is because shoppers are seeking to wrap up their last minute Christmas shopping.
Whether you braved the Black Friday madness or played it safe behind your computer screen, the shopping holiday kicks off the Christmas shopping season and extends a decades-old tradition of one crazed shopping day into a weekend shopping bonanza.