A couple weeks ago, I received a tantalizing email offer for $150 off purchases of $500 or more at bluenile.com. I wavered over the decision of whether to splurge on the vintage emerald ring I’ve been eyeing for nearly a year, or hold out a little longer, and hope that a better deal would arrive on Back Friday. Black Friday, and more recently, Cyber Monday, are vaunted as the top shopping days of the year, offering unmatched opportunities for deal-hunters. However, as the tradition of Black Friday continues to evolve, I worried I might not be rewarded by waiting.
The Friday after Thanksgiving has long been a major day for retail, even during the frugal years of the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt went so far as to experiment with pulling forward the Thanksgiving holiday, in an effort to stimulate the economy with the effects of post-Thanksgiving shopping. Over the years, retailers sought to begin their lucrative holiday season with a bang, and win a greater share of the traffic, by offering increasingly exciting “door buster” promotions on the Friday that came to be called “Black Friday.”
Nowadays, Black Friday sales are spread out over the entire period between Thanksgiving Day and the Monday after Thanksgiving, and online sales are an important component. “Cyber Monday” sales have risen an average of over 15% annually since 2006 (exceeding $3 billion last year), and many online promotions are available earlier in the weekend as well. Many of the larger retailers open their stores on Thanksgiving, despite the risk of Thanksgiving sales detracting from Friday sales, and despite complaints that retail employees shouldn’t be deprived of spending the day with their families.
The sales don’t necessarily even wait for Thanksgiving. Unlike in Franklin Roosevelt’s day, today it is no longer taboo to begin holiday marketing sooner, with some stores breaking out the Christmas carols and promotional specials immediately after Halloween. This growing phenomenon has been dubbed “Christmas Creep,” and it reflects retailers’ eagerness to provide enticing offers ahead of the competition.
Christmas Creep may be just one facet of a broader evolution in holiday marketing. Evidence shows that there are strong markets for both the early birds and the last-minute sprinters, and true deal-hunters are ready to seize upon a good promo whenever it arises. As retailers grow ever more astute at reaching all of these groups, they may find it less necessary to place such enormous emphasis on the Black Friday weekend, even to the point of compromising a treasured holiday by opening stores on Thanksgiving. I have noticed that some retailers seem to view Black Friday as an opportunity to bring in sales by expanding hours and appealing to customer expectations of deals, without necessarily offering unparalleled deals – but the confidence that customers like myself used to have in Black Friday will continue to be eroded as a result.
I chose to go ahead and order the ring I’d been wanting, since the promo was the best I had seen from Blue Nile. I might still do a little Thanksgiving-weekend shopping, but you won’t find me driving to the mall immediately after the feast, or in the wee hours the following morning. I’ll likely be browsing fashion websites in my PJs
– Mary Siebenaler, Associate Consultant, Logic Information Systems