Black Friday 2011 is Friday, November 25, 2011. Black Friday is the day that retailers offer unbeatable deals on everything from espresso makers and flat screen televisions, to designer handbags and shoes. Popularized in recent years by retailers offering incredible “door-buster” deals in limited quantities, Black Friday can become a day of gridlocked cities and frenzied shoppers, fuelled by a sense of urgency created by outrageous and often time-sensitive deals and offers. In the United States, Black Friday is always the Friday immediately following Thanksgiving Day.
Here, we’ll tell you how the term “Black Friday” came about, and we’ll tell you how to survive the crowds if you decide to brave the mall that day. You’ll learn that it’s not completely impossible to do, but if you’re smart, you’ll be sure to set aside some time for a little online shopping for your Christmas gifts.
The term “Black Friday” is thought to have been coined in the 1960s by the Philadelphia police department to describe the damaging impact that the Friday after thanksgiving had on the city due to traffic jams and overcrowding of department stores. Others have favored the more recent explanation for the term, taking it to describe the day of the year that retailers go from losing money, or being “in the red” to being profitable, or “in the black.” In any case, “Black Friday” has become one of the best-known phrases in the retail dictionary, commandeered as a term of endearment by retail junkies and shopaholics who live for a good deal.
Whatever its origins, Black Friday is a day when the collective blood pressure of holiday shoppers goes up a few points and people can get a little wacky. Retailers have cleverly promoted a sense of importance around the famed shopping weekend, by offering incredible deals on limited stock items, on a first come, first served basis. The deals are worth the bruised elbows and sore feet in many cases, but we’re fairly certain that the marketing genius who conceived the notion of “door-buster” discounts, did so with the comfort of knowing he’d never be the poor sales assistant working those doors, come door-busting day.
Black Friday has garnered a reputation for bringing out the worst in people. After a warm and fuzzy Thanksgiving Day, filled with turkey and recollections of family camping trips and picnics, the next day’s shopping crowds are not for the faint hearted. There is a bizarre shift in behavior, and people adopt a warrior mentality to get a good bargain. Complete strangers become enemies for one day as they fight it out for the best deals. The funny thing is that in day-to-day life, the woman who just body checked you as she hurtled down the white goods isle could be your friendly bank teller during the week.
It’s not unusual for people to voluntarily wake up in the middle of the night, don layers of winter clothing, bundle into the car and arrive at the mall for opening times of as early as 4am the Friday after Thanksgiving in some instances. Some stores in recent years have even tried to outdo their competition by opening their doors on Thanksgiving evening, around the time that the kids are being put into bed.
And it can get ugly… A New York Times report in 2006 describes scenes of mayhem that ensued around the country when shoppers took their Christmas lists a little too seriously. Armed with battle plans and maps drawn up in spiral-bound notebooks, shoppers descended on ill-equipped stores in droves. Police intervened in a total of nine skirmishes in Fashion Place mall in Murray, Utah after a reported 15,000 shoppers converged at the mall shortly after midnight on Friday. Some retailers had to blockade their doors, and the main entrance to the mall was closed briefly, to avoid a fire hazard. At the 5am opening at Wal-Mart outside Columbus, employees were pinned against stacks of merchandise by shoppers desperate to get the best “door-busting” deals, and all across the nation, reports of similar tales of chaos appeared in papers the next day. Crowds have been slightly more controlled in recent years, but many people still choose to stay safely indoors all day to avoid the pandemonium.
If you are not a safety-first kind of person, or you are desperate for the Black Friday experience, you must know that this is a multi-step process you are about to embark on, and chances are, the effort you put in will far outweigh the reward. Nevertheless, if you simply MUST brave the weather and crowds on Black Friday, you need to be strategic. First, you need to research the deals online so that you can recognize a genuine deal when you see it. Second, you will need to get up early. Many door-buster deals are gone in seconds. Retailers are known to advertise “too-good-to-be-true” deals, only to stock two or three of each item in store. That lucky alpha-shopper who got up at 4am and elbowed you out of the way as you were coming in the door is likely to go home content, but that’s little comfort to you, who got up at a similarly ungodly hour only to miss the bargain by 14 seconds.
Third, wear the right gear. Shin-pads and a helmet might seem appropriate attire, but you don’t want to be removed by security before you get to the bargain bins. Wear comfy shoes for obvious reasons, and wear a few layers - it’s November. Be sure to have a big, lightweight bag with you to hold your warmer clothes once you get inside the store. Fourth, take snacks and a sport drink. There’s nothing worse on a day like this, than waiting an hour and a half on a food court queue, when a granola bar will get your blood sugar up in about 15 minutes. Fifth, take a shopping companion. Leave the kids at home – this is a war zone, not a place for children, and don’t take your spouse unless you want one of you to be sleeping on the couch that night.
Sixth, and probably the most valuable tip of all: consider the benefits of Cyber Monday. Avoid “Black and Blue” Friday by shopping online. Slip into your comfy slippers, put on some Mozart, fix yourself a cup of tea, and save yourself the hypertension. Our Red Envelope Black Friday sales will not leave you bruised and battered, and you can browse our catalog in advance so you’re sure not to miss important cousins or friends on your list. There are no crowds, no lines, no children crying from exhaustion, and zero chance of being mauled by an overzealous shopper.
For Black Friday 2011, it is expected that more people than ever will be doing their holiday shopping online in what seems like a reasonable move away from the fracas of the mall. That doesn’t mean that a large number of people won’t be battling it out in the flesh this year. Retailers still anticipate huge numbers of shoppers at their retail outlets. So come Friday morning, while you are standing in the kitchen in your pajamas, spoon in hand, eating cold chestnut stuffing and pumpkin pie with the fridge door open, spare a thought for the throngs of crazed shoppers who don’t have an Internet connection at their place.