Early Morning As Much About the People as Sales
As you read this column, I will be out and about with the rest of the Black Friday shoppers. I dutifully woke up at 3:30 a.m., just to be out and about at 5 a.m. Crazy you say? Perhaps.
This will be my fourth year of this “madness,” and I look forward to it each year. Please don’t tell my wife. I have her convinced that I hate Black Friday and it is a huge sacrifice to go with her.
I don’t remember Black Friday much from my childhood — and for good reason. The idea of this shopping day is a relatively new concept.
With a little research through Wikipedia, I learned a little history.
The day’s name originated in Philadelphia, where it originally was used to describe the heavy and disruptive pedestrian and vehicle traffic which would occur on the day after Thanksgiving.
Use of the term started before 1966 and began to see broader use outside Philadelphia around 1975. Later an alternative explanation began to be offered: that “Black Friday” indicates the point at which retailers begin to turn a profit, or are “in the black”.
The news media have long described the day after Thanksgiving as the busiest shopping day of the year. In earlier years, this was not actually the case. In the period from 1993 through 2001, for example, Black Friday ranked from fifth to tenth on the list of busiest shopping days, with the Saturday before Christmas usually taking first place.
In 2003, however, Black Friday actually was the busiest shopping day of the year, and it has retained that position every year since except 2004, when it ranked second.
Black Friday is popular as a shopping day for a combination of several reasons. As the first day after the last major holiday before Christmas it inaugurates the Christmas season. Additionally, many employers give their employees the day off as part of Thanksgiving leave, increasing the potential number of shoppers.
In order to take advantage of this, virtually all retailers in the country, big and small, offer various sales.
Recent years have seen retailers extend beyond normal hours in order to maintain an edge, or to simply keep up with competition. Such hours may include opening as early as 12:00 a.m. or remaining open overnight on Thanksgiving Day and beginning sales prices at midnight.
In 2010, Toys ‘R’ Us began their Black Friday sales at 10:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day and further upped the ante by offering free boxes of Crayola crayons and coloring books for as long as supplies lasted. Other retailers, like Sears, Aéropostale, and Kmart, began Black Friday sales early Thanksgiving morning, and ran them through as late as 11:00 p.m. Friday evening.
Historically, it was common for Black Friday sales to extend throughout the following weekend. However, this practice has largely disappeared in recent years, perhaps because of an effort by retailers to create a greater sense of urgency.
Three years ago, I ventured out with the family for the early morning excursion, and I was hooked.
I am not a fan because of the sales.
I am not a fan of early mornings.
I am a fan because of the diverse people I see while I am out.
Some people show up in the pajamas, while others are dressed as if it were the middle of the day.
The varied levels of politeness are a sight to behold as well. Some people are out to get the deal at all costs — even getting physical with their fellow shoppers.
I’m sure everyone remembers the “Great Bossier City Toys R Us Incident” of a few years ago — where two ladies got into fisticuffs outside our local toy store. We made national news with that one.
Others show high levels of courtesy, reminding us there is hope for mankind.
For a people watcher like me, it is a cornucopia (how about that for a Thanksgiving term?) of personalities.
Two things help me survive the early morning: Starbucks and Krispy Kreme.
So enjoy this Black Friday, but remember your manners. Who knows, I might write about you in my next column.
David A. Specht Jr., is Vice President of Specht Newspapers, Inc., and publisher of the Bossier Press-Tribune. Read more of his blogs at www.DavidASpecht.com.