by Colin McIntosh
Traditionally in the US, people’s minds start turning towards the holidays after Thanksgiving (the fourth Thursday in November). That’s not your summer holidays, as Brits might understand it, but the December pile-up of religious and secular festivities that represents the high point of consumer spending, not just in the US, but in many countries around the world.
With Thanksgiving out of the way, Americans feel free to concentrate on preparing for Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or other festivals, as well as the New Year, and that usually involves a heavy dose of spending. The custom dates back a long way, but in the 1970s marketing people introduced the term Black Friday. This refers to the Friday after Thanksgiving, when shops reduce the price of goods in order to attract customers who want to start their gift shopping, or, in other words, to kick-start the spending season:
The store was full of Black Friday shoppers chasing deals.
The concept has now gone viral, and many countries, including the UK, that don’t celebrate Thanksgiving have Black Friday as a regular fixture. Last year the British media showed desperate scenes of shoppers stampeding department stores and supermarkets and exchanging blows in the aisles to pick up a bargain, prompting a backlash from those who said it was all too American and shouldn’t be allowed:
The carnage on Black Friday saw several arrests made, and left staff in tears.
The term, along with many others from the world of retail, has now found a place in the Cambridge English Dictionary. Online retailing has welcomed the idea enthusiastically, but has extended it to include the Monday after Black Friday: Cyber Monday. This was introduced as a marketing strategy to help potential customers who were too busy over the Thanksgiving weekend to pick up their bargains at brick-and-mortar stores.
Clicks-and-mortar stores – those with a presence on the high street (UK) or main street (US) as well as online – see Black Friday as a way of increasing footfall (UK) or foot traffic (US) in their stores, in other words the number of customers who pass through. Dedicated shopaholics can find bargains on big-ticket items and enjoy the convenience of using contactless technology for their in-store purchases, whether at big-box retailers or pop-up stores. Online retailers, or e-tailers, try to tempt us with even cheaper prices to make us fill up our virtual shopping baskets (UK) or shopping carts (US). In the future you may even have your purchases delivered by drone:
The CEO said that someday drone delivery will be “as common as seeing a mail truck.”
This year Black Friday is on November 27. Happy shopping!