Meditations on Black Friday
November 23, 2012
by Doug Short
As I type this, black Friday is now in its evening hours. Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not much of a shopper. I sometimes quip that when you die you go to one of two places: Heaven or shopping.
So it was with morbid fascination that I picked up a copy of yesterday's Raleigh News & Observer. The Thanksgiving issue of this normally thin newspaper had an astonishing thickness of nearly two inches, swollen beyond recognition by the Black Friday ad inserts. Raleigh is a modest-sized city. Wikipedia puts it at number 42 in their 2011 estimates -- a bit smaller than Colorado Springs but larger than Omaha. But this newspaper's dimensions had me wondering if I'd been transported to New York City.
Earlier this week I posted an article on the Gallup survey on holiday spending plans. The survey question was "Roughly how much money do you think you personally will spend on Christmas gifts this year?" The 2012 prediction is $770, which, as I pointed out, in real terms is 35% lower than Gallup's first survey in 1999. The ad agencies certainly had their work cut out to drum up enough Friday sales to move them from red to black.
Thus far today, I've seen various soft-core news stories about Black Friday shopper-mania:
Walmart, Retailers Boom on Black Friday There's Nothing Quite Like Black Friday At Macy's Gigantic Flagship Store Black Friday: Tempers and arrests all part of annual shopping frenzy Live updates: Black Friday shoppers smash door at Urban Outfitters Why Black Friday 2012 is giving shoppers and stores an extra gift
My wife ventured out to Raleigh's Crabtree Valley Mall around 9 AM to cash in on a Black Friday offer from her favorite department store. When she returned home around noon, I made some sort of lame pun about changing the name to Crabtree Valley Maul for Black Friday. "Actually, it wasn't crowded at all," she told me. "I parked on the second level close to the Belk entrance with no problem."
Over the next few days we'll get some post mortems on Black Friday. Did it live up to the expectations? Will retail sales help move Q4 GDP back to historic norms?
Holiday season in our household is focused on our one-and-only grandchild, now age 4. She will be the recipient of Santa's largess … no lumps of coal for her. But my wife informed me that the extended family is discussing a new approach for this season's traditional gathering. Rather than the usual exchange of multiple gifts, each person will buy his/her own gift and place it gift-wrapped under the tree. That way our little Caroline will have plenty of gifts to hand out, and no one will be disappointed with what they receive.
That's probably not a strategy the retail industry would endorse.