Were any of you bribed to go Black Friday shopping when you were kids?
I was and I remember it clearly. My mom would bribe us with McDonald’s breakfast to wake up really really really early (looking back now, it wasn’t that early but still) to go with her to the mall on Black Fridays. I remember the buzz of the people in the stores with the holiday decorations up, having to carry a lot of bags and inevitably complaining by noon that we wanted to go home. Fast forward to today – do not judge me but I finished all my Black Friday shopping from the comfort of my bed before 9am today. Not to mention that I have been blasted with Black Friday online shopping deals since last week marketing deals starting the week of Thanksgiving and that you “didn’t have to wait” until Black Friday. This made me wonder, is Black Friday as we know it dead?
Before we jump into that question, I learned that there are a lot of myths around why Black Friday is referred to as Black Friday including:
- The Philadelphia police coined the term in the 1950s to describe the chaos that ensued on the day following Thanksgiving, because of holiday shopping and the Army-Navy football game that was hosted locally.
- The assumption that it is a result of retailer’s profit margins finally going into the black (profit), after a year of being in the red (debt).
Whichever one you choose to believe today, an estimated 174 million US consumers take part in either online or in store shopping over the Thanksgiving weekend, spending on average $520 per person. As shopping habits change, I am curious to see how much of this is done in person versus online especially as Black Friday and Cyber Monday have merged into a single weekend of discount deals.
Historically, Black Friday has been a store-centric retail sales holiday, with consumers braving packed aisles and waiting in long lines to grab doorbusters. Every year, retail chains have extended more Black Friday sales to consumers buying online, and the trend was magnified in 2020 as merchants sought to discourage crowds at physical stores. As online shopping has become commonplace this has forced brick-and-mortar stores to shift more effort and expected profits through online platforms. Looking at Amazon, last year they recorded online spending on Black Friday increase of 22% setting a record of $9 billion dollars in sales. On the contrast brick-and-mortar store traffic decreased by 52% noting that many malls looked more empty than full. As we look at this year still missing are the long lines of shoppers camping outside of a Best Buy for a deal on a flat screen TV that were common in holidays past. Also, the NPD Group Chief Industry Advisor Marshal Cohen tweeted a photo from inside a Walmart store on the East Coast around 10 a.m., with nobody waiting in line at the register.
Today to remain relevant in a world where Amazon and online retailers are outpacing brick-and-mortar stores, there is a need to ramp up online presence. To do so many have turned to Shopify which makes tools for companies to sell their products online and counts more than 1.7 million merchants who use their services. They have already announced that by mid-morning on Black Friday merchants were selling at a rate of more than $100 million dollars per hour, surpassing the Black Friday rates they saw in 2020! I am sure I contributed during my morning Black Friday shopping.
Cyber Monday, which originated as the internet’s answer to Black Friday, grew in importance for the season, and had steadily increased its lead over Black Friday in the battle for ecommerce dollars, until 2020, thanks to the pandemic. This led to small dip in sales in comparison on Cyber Monday, but Digital Commerce 360 is projecting those sales will be just shy of $12 billion dollars in the United States alone this year.
I myself have not adventured out into a physical store today and will most likely not. However, if this continues to be the trend and shoppers no longer shop in stores at the same rate, and instead take advantage of online deals and Cyber Monday, do we think brick-and-mortar businesses will continue in store discounts the day after Thanksgiving? Is Black Friday as we know it dead and now a race to who can shop the fastest from their home?
Happy shopping whether in person or from the comfort of your bed.